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Looking for a quiet place in a nation of noise

Noise is "the new secondhand smoke": irritating and harmful to health. As Europe calms down, the US cities and states UU They continue working to reduce noise.

NEW YORK – One of the quietest places in this noisy city is located in the middle of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the largest art museums in the world, with 7 million visitors per year.

Most do not know about the small Astor Chinese Garden Court hidden inside the gigantic museum. And then, here is quiet.

In a city whose cacophony can reach 95 decibels in the center of Manhattan, well above the average recommended by the federal government of no more than 70 decibels, the commotion of all that fuss involves irate residents, noise advocates, bars, helicopter observation companies, landscapers and construction companies, as well as the City Council. The non-emergency 311 call service in the city receives 50,000 calls per day, and the number 1 complaint is noise.

Now New York University started a five-year study funded by the National Science Foundation to monitor noise in New York. The Sounds of New York City project aims to track sound throughout the city. But what legislators will do with the information is not yet clear.

No studies have been conducted on the change in city noise over time, if it is getting worse or to what extent. But experts point to growing complaints, more demands, more people with hearing problems and studies showing that noise has negative effects on health.

Noise is "the new problem of second-hand smoke," said Bradley Vite, an anti-noise advocate who pushed for rules to be set in Elkhart, Indiana, which includes some of the most rugged fines in the country. "It took decades to educate people about the dangers of second-hand smoke, it may take decades to show the impact of second-hand noise."

The Environmental Protection Agency has said that noise below an average of 70 decibels for 24 hours is safe and will not cause hearing loss. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says anything below 85 will not cause hearing loss for workers exposed to noisy machinery.

But those levels are well above the recommendations made by the European Union. In 2009, the EU established noise guidelines of 40 decibels at night to "protect human health". And he said that constant and continuous noise during the day – like noise on the roads – should not exceed 50 decibels.

"We are in active denial" about the effects of noise, said Rick Neitzel, director of environmental health policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "We are very, very behind what Europe is doing."

Almost no place in the continental United States is free of artificial sound.

When mapping the noise across the country, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the US Department of Transportation. UU In 2017 he discovered that 97 percent of the population is subject to noise caused by man. A recent study of 290 national park sites found that 67 percent have significant human noise, said Rachel Buxton of Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Aircraft noise was reduced by 95 percent from 1970 to 2004, when aircraft engines became quieter, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. But local battles over the noise of airports and airplanes continue for communities on flight routes. In national parks "the biggest culprit is the plane, the planes flying overhead, and then the traffic and sounds of industrial sources such as the extraction of oil and natural gas," said Buxton, who participated in the study of the noise of the national park.

"We will go hiking in Rocky Mountain," he said of the national park, and the background noise "makes my husband completely crazy"

People in the poorest neighborhoods and segregated racially live with higher noise levels, according to a 2017 study conducted by the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley. The neighborhoods with average annual incomes below $ 25,000 were almost two decibels higher than the neighborhoods with incomes above $ 100,000.

And communities where at least 3 out of 4 residents are black had average nighttime noise levels of 46.3 decibels, four decibels higher than communities without black residents.

It is difficult for cities and residents to make significant changes in the overall noise levels because the efforts "are so fragmented and fragmented," said Arline Bronzaft, an environmental psychologist whose research on the effect of noise on children in the 1970s helped to lead to improvements in the isolation of schools along the railroad tracks. He also helped New York City revise its regulations against noise in 2007 as an advocate and advisor to the mayor's committee on noise.

New York updated the noise regulations in 2005 and again in 2007 to establish maximum noise levels and restrict the hours of the day when construction and other noise could be above those levels. "People only care about the noise that affects them People say, 'Well, you live in a city, that's what you get for living in a city'"

noise not only affects hearing, say noise activists; can cost you your life A study at the University of Michigan showed a link to cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, according to Neitzel, who conducted the study.

"The consensus is that if we can keep noise below 70 decibels on average, that would eliminate hearing loss," Neitzel said. "But the problem is that if the noise is more than 50 decibels, there is an increased risk of heart attack and hypertension," he said. "Noise at 70 decibels is not safe."

According to the Earth Journalism Network, when you hear a pneumatic hammer, it's 130 decibels of noise; a chainsaw, 110. In a rock concert standing near the speakers? 120. Passed by the police with sirens on? 120. Behind a garbage truck? 100.

In a noisy restaurant? 70.

Trying to calm the noise

Some states and cities are beginning to do something, at least one little, to calm things down.

In Texas, a new "silent concrete" is being tested on two stretches of Interstate 10 and US 290. The $ 12.4 million project is intended to replace concrete acoustic barriers that will not be needed because highway traffic will be quieter.

"Most road roar comes from tires on the road, not from the engine or exhaust noise," said Robert Bernhard, vice president of research at the University of Notre Dame and noise expert. Control engineering. Traditional concrete is furrowed with furrows that cross the road to drain the water, he said. "That's where you start to whine, yes, sound." Quieter concrete has furrows that go with traffic.

The quieter concrete lowers the sound levels of the highway by 5.8 decibels on average, according to a study in Texas. That's equivalent to a reduction of about 70 percent in traffic, according to Emily Black, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation.

In Phoenix, more than 200 miles of roads were repaved with a concrete mix that uses pieces of used tires to muffle sound, said Doug Nintzel, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. In 2017, a $ 9.8 million project resurfaced 11 miles from Interstate 17 in Phoenix, the most recent section of a 20-year program and $ 30 million to reduce road noise with rubberized concrete. More than 6,000 recycled tires are used on each mile of four-lane rubber road.

"It means that millions of tires have been recycled and have been kept out of landfills," he said.

Blade Blowers and Helicopters

Elkhart backs its regulations against "loud and shrill noises" with heavy fines, particularly for hot rods and tricked motorcycles whose exhaust systems have been manipulated to make them noisier. The first violation will cost you $ 250; the second, $ 500; the third, $ 1,000; and it's $ 1,500 for each violation after that.

"These bands of motorists who roar through the city can get up to 125 decibels," Vite said. The city has raised $ 1.6 million in fines for noise, and used it to buy four new police cars and other things, he said.

Leaf blowers are another flashpoint of noise.

Hundreds of cities have regulations for the leaf blower, but they are difficult to apply. Regulation has prevailed in California, Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, New York and Massachusetts, according to Quiet Communities, a non-profit organization that advocates noise control.

State legislators in Hawaii have considered a ban on gas blowers. And cities like Washington, D.C., have been considering a ban for several years, but have not approved one.

Washington, New York and Los Angeles have also had problems with helicopter noise. In Washington, military flights are to blame; in New York, they are panoramic flights; and in Los Angeles, it's the filmmakers trying to get the perfect shot. Approximately three quarters of the approximately 145 daily flights in the D.C area. are to or from the Pentagon, according to a letter to the Pentagon of Virginia, Maryland and representatives of the District of Columbia Congress.

The Pentagon, located in Arlington, Virginia, agreed to study noise and ways to minimize it.

In New York, the accident of an open-door touring helicopter that killed all five passengers last month has led to the FAA's prohibition of such helicopters while studying the accident. But that does not affect the hundreds of tourist helicopters that buzz around the city, said Adrian Benepe, director of city park development for the Trust for Public Land and former commissioner of parks in New York City.

"We have up to 350 flights per day, during the day, that fly low over the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty and back the New Jersey side," he said. "I've seen a helicopter fly every minute of every day"

He said flights have ruined the relative tranquility of the city's main parks at the far end of Manhattan Island, like Battery Park, Hudson River Park and elevated High Line. Tourist helicopters have "destroyed any sanctuary in the parks," he said.

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