Heard, but not seen: noise pollution

Air pollution and its effect on our health and well-being has been much studied and written about. But noise pollution is only just beginning to be recognised.

Recent studies, here and here, showed that continuous exposure to traffic noise can lead to child development problems, heart disease and diabetes – and we haven’t even touched on hearing and mental health. Just as environmentalists are worried about the harm that traffic noise is having on our oceans and on birds, medical scientists are worried about the harm that traffic noise is having on human health.

Residents of Mill Road noticed the difference that not having traffic noise made – and that having it back is making. Residents backing on to the railway are further concerned about the possible increase in noise from railway developments including the controversial train wash.

But generally, we’re lucky. If you look up Cambridge on this map, you’ll see that Mill Road is relatively quiet compared with areas of Cambridge nearer to the M11, A11 and A14. You can hear the difference in volume between a normal highway and a motorway in this Danish study. At speed, as you’ll hear, it’s not so much the engine noise that’s the problem but the tyres on the road – and moving to electric cars will do nothing to reduce this noise.

In towns, electric cars’ noise, or, rather, the lack of it, can also be a problem. The charity Guide Dogs says that the the chance of being hit by a quiet electric or hybrid vehicle is increased by 40%. But if e-cars have to have an artificial noise fitted, that brings us back to the problem of noise pollution!

Noise pollution needs to be taken in conjunction with air pollution: its causes and its risks are the same.

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