Everything You Need to Know about Noise Pollution

How to limit the noise propagation (not only in Oil and Gas). Risks and countermeasures of a phenomenon as important as universally underrated.

The noise pollution’s matter has become a well-documented public domain anthology by now.

The World Health Organisation has reported that 40% of Europe’s population is exposed to noise levels in excess of 55dB. Moreover, noise pollution is ranked as second to air pollution, in terms of affecting our health and wellbeing, including diabetes, tinnitus and risk of heart disease.

Noise pollution in Oil and Gas

According to recent study achieved by PSE Healthy Energy and West Virginia University, some modern Oil and Gas techniques – such hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) – produce noise that may increase adverse effects on human health. 

A fracking well in Colorado, pictured in 2012

Fracking can create noise at levels high enough to harm the health of people living nearby (source phys.org). “Oil and gas operations produce a complex symphony of noise types, including intermittent and continuous sounds and varying intensities,” argued PSE Healthy Energy Executive Director Seth Shonkoff.

A adequate set of policies should be specified, in order to safeguard residents and communities, such particularly vulnerable populations (e.g. schools and hospitals). Noise mitigation techniques like perimeter sound walls, noise barriers and acoustic enclosures could represent the most appropriate solutions to hold back this phenomenon.

Noise impact on marine species

This is not all. A recent study led by International Fund for Animal Welfare, reveals the damaging impact of Oil

Noise pollution can damage marine species

and Gas noise pollution on whales and dolphins. In the report, they put in evidence how new technologies should reduce their impact on marine environment during the exploration phase (source: International Fund for Animal Welfare).

 

Noise and Diseases

Numerous epidemiological studies have linked noise to adverse health outcomes too. They include diabetes, depression, birth complications and cognitive impairment in children.

In facts, apart from damage to hearing, exposure to excessive and constant noise can cause other health problems including:

  • Headache
  • Sleep and heart disease
  • Stress
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Digestive disorders
  • Increased susceptibility to colds and other minor infections

Noise in Europe: limits and human tolerance

As we know, the loudness of noise is measured in decibels. Sensitivity to noise differs from one individual to the next, but experts believe that damage to hearing occurs when noise levels are higher than 85 decibels, which is about the loudness of heavy traffic.

Every year, 7 million people in Europe die from heart disease, that would put the toll from exposure to noise at around 210,000 deaths. In England heart disease kills 110,000 people annually, so the deaths linked to noise could be around 3,300.

2% of Europeans suffer severely disturbed sleep because of noise pollution. The researchers calculate that chronic exposure to loud traffic noise causes three per cent of all cases of tinnitus, in which sufferers hear constant noise. Length of exposure is important too. In facts, it is not recommendable to listen to noises of 109 decibels for any longer than two minutes in row.

Noise and public health in U.S.

In US the noise phenomena has been studied deeply, causing a direct response by public healthThe Health Impacts Project (HIP) provides since 2013 guidance for policy makers to identify the health consequences of potential projects by making public a national sample of health impact assessment.

Exposure Limits in U.S.

The U.S. EPA recommends an average 24-hr exposure limit of 55 A-weighted decibels (dBA) to protect the public from all adverse effects on health and welfare in residential areas. This limit is a day–night 24-hr average noise level (LDN), with a 10-dBA penalty applied to nighttime levels between 2200 and 0700 hours to account for sleep disruption and no penalty applied to daytime levels.

More info about the Noise sources and Soundproofing solutions in industrial sector can be found here.