What’s That Sound?

Posted in: Dear Mabel, ELNews | 1

Dear Mabel,

I actually found the Environment Lethbridge website while researching air quality for Lethbridge. Being a green queen from way back, I think it’s great to have a public organization that dedicates itself to sustainability.

However, I was wondering where does noise pollution fit into this vision? I came from a big city where it was so noisy, it had a very negative affect on my quality of life and peaceful enjoyment and became so intolerable, it contributed to me moving away from it.

Noise from constant construction, patrolling helicopters, sirens, traffic and one of the worst offenders: people locking their cars using the beep mechanism of the car horn!! (Deactivate it and just listen for the little click or go old school and use the key.)

I think that before Lethbridge gets too big, there should be a policy in place recognizing noise pollution as having an impact on air quality and also as a hazard to human health (and ban the locking of vehicles in this manner.) It may seem like a little thing but little things as we know can add up to become a bigger thing!

What do you think about noise pollution?


A. Noise is often overlooked as an environmental problem and yet it is increasingly rare to find a time or space that is completely free of human-caused sound, particularly in an urban environment.

Despite being overlooked, evidence shows that noise can cause significant environmental and health issues. From a health perspective, noise has been linked to conditions such heart disease, sleep disruption and hearing loss.

Hearing loss is an obvious impact of exposure to noise, but sleep disruption has also been shown to be significant. Even when nighttime noise fails to wake us up, it can still provoke our internal warning response, creating hidden stress and potentially leading to cardio-vascular disease. These impacts on human health have led the World Health Organization to classify noise pollution as a serious environmental threat to human health, second only to air pollution.

Noise pollution can also have a negative impact on wildlife. Human-caused noise has been shown to disrupt everything from pollination to nesting in bird species. On a larger scale, the noise from ships is well-known to negatively impact whales and the noise from roads negatively impacts animals such as grizzly bears, causing them to change their behaviour.

The City of Lethbridge does have a Noise Bylaw, however, it primarily applies to specific activities such as loud vehicles, barking dogs etc and not to cumulative noise levels. While some jurisdictions have noise bylaws that are more restrictive than others, we weren’t able to find any examples that restricted activities beyond excessively loud or disruptive sounds. In addition, data on cumulative noise pollution levels in Canada does not appear to be available.

Regulating noise is challenging. Using your example of the beeping of remote car locks, a jurisdiction such as the City of Lethbridge has no control over the installation of these devices into vehicles and enforcing a restriction would be very resource intensive and probably not effective. This one activity is just a small part of the overall noise that exists in Lethbridge. Regulating them all would be a monumental task.

A potential solution may be to design buildings and neighbourhoods in ways that are more sound absorbent. Planting trees in specific areas can help to absorb and muffle sound. Installing absorbent materials both indoors and outdoors can also reduce noise levels.

Noise pollution is definitely an area where more local research is needed so that we can all better understand the impacts on our health and our environment.


More from Mabel:

Click here to ask Mabel a question!