Quiet, Please, Part 1: Loud Noises May be More Hazardous to Your Health Than You Think
The environmental stress of noises above a certain decibel level can contribute to heart attacks
A construction area isn’t ever going to be as quiet as a library—but there are good reasons to tone down the noise. One of those reasons is that the loud sounds of construction equipment can—over time—contribute to a heart attack.
Noise pollution is commonly overlooked as a contributor to what’s known as “environmental stress.” It’ll raise your risk of serious health conditions. Damage to your hearing is the obvious negative impact, but add heart disease to the list, as well. You don’t have to work on a construction site to be in the danger zone. It’s estimated that over 100 million people are exposed to unhealthy levels of noise.
How loud is too loud?
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set recommended noise exposure limits to 55 decibels over a 24-hour period back in the 1970s. The agency weighted nighttime noise more heavily because of its sleep interference.
How loud is that? Take a walk outside in a quiet suburb. The ambient sound there is about 50 decibels. Rolling your window down and listening to freeway traffic as you drive is about 70 decibels. A chain saw is 120 decibels.
The EPA re-visited these noise level recommendations again in 1981. At that time, they were left alone, and it was decided that noise issues were best handled at the state and local government level. That said, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has set a limit of 90 dBA in an eight-hour workday. And it’s up to you to follow regulations and protect yourself and your crew.
How loud noises harm your heart
It’s not difficult to understand how noise pollution increases your risk of hearing loss—but how this might lead to cardiovascular disease might be a bit of a mystery. A recent analysis by the EPA determined that even a small decrease in loud noise can reduce the prevalence of high blood pressure. The study showed that a decrease of only 5 decibels could reduce high blood pressure by 1.4% and coronary heart disease by 1.8%.
Elsewhere, research published by Environmental Health Perspectives shows that long-term exposure to sound even at the level of traffic noise may account for 3% of coronary disease. That’s a scary statistic, but it begs the question: How does this harm out hearts?
The most direct way is by elevating our body’s stress hormones. Over time, cortisol and adrenaline—which increase when we are exposed to loud noise—lead to high blood pressure. This can cause stroke or even heart failure.
If you’re around construction equipment or you work in the landscaping business where you’re exposed to leaf blowers or other equipment generating loud noises, you might tell yourself that you do acclimate yourself to it after a while, especially with routine use of hearing protection. While that may be true, individuals in these professions will be exposed to greater-than-average amounts of noise, and the adverse physiological impact can accrue.
Don’t forget your ears
Noise-induced hearing loss is thought to affect about 15% of us. That’s according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Repeated exposure to sounds at 85 decibels or louder can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter amount of time it takes for noise-induced hearing loss to occur
It’s stressful to be around, and it can cause hearing loss. If you’re in the construction business, you’ve got guidelines issued by OSHA that have determined the maximum exposure to certain sounds. For example, OSHA has determined that your exposure to a 105-decibel power motor shouldn’t exceed 1 hour. A jackhammer’s 115-decibel sound is something you should limit yourself to just 15 minutes daily. This can be accomplished with appropriate hearing protection—but that’s not always the best solution because hearing protection is uncomfortable, and individuals may forget to wear it for periods on site.
Wouldn’t it be better to remove some of the sources of damaging sound? Battery-powered construction and landscaping equipment make this possible. It ushers in a new era where efficient battery power eliminates fuel costs, unsafe exhaust, and noise. This equipment is practically silent, which makes it safer to be around – and ultimately better for your health.
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