Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Before we all go deaf from noise pollution

Have you ever visited a local market or a motor park in Nigeria lately? Have you noticed the bedlam, I mean the din? The hooting of vehicles, music blaring from the loudspeakers mounted by those selling compact discs and DVDs as well as those doing one form of sales promotion or the other, the noise from the generators, etc. Anytime there is no public power supply, I have no rest in my house as everyone in the neighbourhood is likely to put on their generators. The noise from these contraptions usually set me on edge.  Noise pollution is actually causing more havoc to humans than we are cognisant of.
Noise is one of the nine sources of pollution. Researchers identified eight others as air, water, thermal, personal, soil, radioactive, visual, and light pollution. An online source, Green Living, explained some of them as follows:  Causes of air pollution include vehicle or manufacturing exhaust; forest fires, volcanic eruptions, dry soil erosion, and building construction or demolition. Sources of water pollution include increased sediment from soil erosion; improper waste disposal and littering and leaching of soil pollution into water supplies. Soil pollution sources include hazardous waste and sewage spills; non-sustainable farming practices such as the heavy use of inorganic pesticides; strip mining, deforestation, and other destructive practices and household dumping and littering
Other types of pollution include personal pollution which is the contamination of one’s body and lifestyle with detrimental actions. This may include excessive smoking, drinking or drug abuse; emotional or physical abuse; poor living conditions and habits and poor personal attitudes. Radioactive contamination include nuclear power plant accidents or leakage; improper nuclear waste disposal and uranium mining operations. Thermal pollution may be caused by power plants; urban sprawl; air pollution particulates that trap heat; deforestation and loss of temperature moderating water supplies
Noise pollution which is the crux of this piece refers to undesirable levels of noise caused by human activities that disrupt the standard of living in the affected area. Researchers say indoor and outdoor noise pollution sources include car alarms, emergency service siren, mechanical equipment, fireworks, compressed air horns, grounds keeping equipment, barking dogs, appliances, lighting hum, audio entertainment systems, electric megaphones, and loud people. Experts warn that noise pollution can cause annoyance and aggression, hypertension, high stress levels, hearing loss, sleep disturbances and tinnitus which can lead to forgetfulness, severe depression and at times panic attacks. In animals, noise can increase the risk of death by altering predator or prey detection and avoidance, interfere with reproduction and navigation, and contribute to permanent hearing loss.
The Lagos State Government took a commendable step in 2010 by banning religious houses in the state   from mounting outside speakers. The level of noise pollution allowed in the state is between 55 decibel during the day and 42 to 45 decibel at night.  In February  2012, officials of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency shut  seven churches and later in May of the same year, three churches and two mosques within the metropolis were shut down  for violating the laws of the state against noise pollution. News report named the affected churches as the Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Mission Church, Anthony Village; Christ Chosen Church, Onipanu and Evangelical Apostolic Church, while the mosques are Darusalam Mosque at Sabo, Yaba and Ayegbesin Mosque at Mafoluku, Oshodi. The General Manager, LASEPA, Rasheed Shabi, was quoted as saying that the development was as a result of petitions filed to his office by residents who had complained about the blazing noise pollution from the churches and mosques.
While I recommend all other states in Nigeria should take a cue from Lagos State and take legal steps to control noise pollution in their states, however, a lot of sensitisation needs to take place to educate Nigerians on the causes, effects and solutions to noise and other forms of pollution.   In a recent interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, Dr. Olawale Ogundiran, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist said that more Nigerians are being exposed to hearing complications due to noise pollution. Ogundiran, an audiologist at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, said with industrialisation and increase in noise pollution from vehicles and worship centres, the average Nigerian requires regular check up. He said cases of noise-induced hearing loss were on the increase, attributing this to late appearance of victims to medical examination.
 “In the offices, at home, at churches, in the mosques, many of us unknowingly harm our eardrums. Even while in cars, some people turn up the volume of music to an embarrassing level to have a fake feeling of enjoyment. With time, such a person may start experiencing a slight headache occasioned by vibrations in the eardrum which may eventually lead to hearing defect or total loss of hearing”, the audiologist explained.
Ogundiran recommended ear plugs or noise muffler for workers in noisy factories. He also advised against exposing babies to noise at worship centres and social events while warning Nigerians to guard against prolonged use of head set while listening to loud music.
The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency as well as state and local government environmental protection agencies need to belt up and partner the National Orientation Agency and the media to sensitise Nigerians on the dangers of environmental pollution and how to avoid it. Beyond the use of traditional mass media, as individuals, we can use the social media (Twitter, Facebook, SMS) to educate other people who may be unaware of the dangers inherent in the nuisance of noise pollution.  Before we all go deaf or die prematurely from noise pollution, let’s all join hands to fight it.