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Noise pollution: Exposed to 75 decibel ambient noise daily

Article extracted from by Noel Grima [14 June 2011]

There are at least 100 persons around Malta who are exposed, on a daily basis, to ambient noise of at least 75 decibels – what one would hear if they were sat next to a washing machine – preliminary studies by Mepa have shown.

Furthermore, 2,600 people are exposed to between 70 and 74 decibels, 5700 to between 65 and 69 dB, 6100 to between 60 and 64 dB, and 8800 to between 55 and 59 dB.

Mepa is at present drawing up a noise map of Malta, on a project funded by Mepa’s own funds, which aims to bring Malta up to scratch with the EU’s reporting requirements where Malta has fallen backwards.

On the one hand, unfortunately, the EU’s reporting requirements do not consider major sources of noise pollution, a Mepa briefing heard yesterday, such as workplace noise, neighbourhood noise, construction noise, entertainment noise, nor fireworks noise.

The EU reporting requirements were rather broad in the first reporting period, to 2007, because the agglomeration to be studied had to be of at least 250,000 in population, and airports had to have 50,000 movements, whereas ours only has 37,000.

The only qualification where Malta fitted in was that which regarded roads. A road had to carry over six million cars a year and 500 roads in Malta qualified.

But that was 2007. The requirements leading to the 2012 reporting timeframe have been significantly lowered: The population agglomeration has to be 100,000 at least, the airport movements remain the same (but Mepa has decided to include the airport this time around) and for roads to be considered, they must carry at least three million cars a year and 1,500 roads in Malta qualify.

The noise map of Malta that is being drawn up by this project still needs further study and correlation: Although the media were shown a map of Malta with different colours identifying the noise levels of the main roads, it is still not clear enough which places carry the most noise. Following checking of the noise levels on the spot, an action plan will later on be drawn up and priorities will be established. Among the corrective measures that may be taken, the road could be improved, acoustic tarmac could be laid, noise barriers set up, people encouraged to have double-glazed windows and maybe too the planning process could factor in the problem of ambient noise.

Mepa is also in the process of issuing contracts on a wide variety of environmental monitoring. This is a huge programme costing some €4.8 million of which €4.6 million will come from ERDF funds over the next three years.

The main aim is to draw up a baseline of the environmental situation as it is at present both on land and in the sea around Malta. This will be done through two detailed studies – a 3D survey of Malta’s surface in great detail, and the other a bathymetric survey of the sea bottom around Malta’s shores up to one mile offshore.

Other tenders now being awarded include that of hardware and software to measure air quality.

How loud is too loud?

Decibel level What we hear

10 dB Normal breathing

20 dB Rustling leaves, mosquito

30 dB Whisper

40 dB Stream, refrigerator humming

50-60 dB Quiet office

50-65 dB Normal conversation

60-65 dB Laughter

70 dB Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer

75 dB Dishwasher

78 dB Washing machine

80 dB Garbage disposal, city traffic noise

Prolonged exposure to any noise above 85 dB can cause gradual

hearing loss.

84 dB Diesel truck

70-90 dB Recreational vehicle

88 dB Subway, motorcycle

85-90 dB Lawnmower

100 dB Train, garbage truck

97 dB Newspaper press

98 dB Farm tractor

Regular exposure of more than one minute risks permanent hearing loss.

103 dB Jet flyover at 100 feet

105 dB Snowmobile

110 dB Jackhammer, power saw, symphony orchestra

120 dB Thunderclap, discotheque/boom box

110-125 dB Stereo

110-140 dB Rock concerts

130 dB Jet takeoff, shotgun firing

145 dB Boom cars