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The Impacts of Noise
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About The Group Our Goals Actions to Date Types of Devices Impacts of Noise Solutions Links Contacts Who to Complain To

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What is noise? The best definition I found in my travels around the internet is that noise is unwanted sound . Some sites talk about noise simply in terms of decibel levels, but noise is more than that. It includes things like duration of the noise, frequency, time of day, personal preferences, and whether you have control of that sound or not.

Many groups and organizations have done exhaustive studies on noise. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States recognized noise as a problem back in the 1970's. They undertook a major study of noise at that time and have continued to update their findings.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has studied noise extensively and has published the most comprehensive information I could find on the internet. And many other medical and environmental groups have done the same.

One of the best internet sites, with links to most noise web sites, is the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse (NPC). If you want to really research the topic of noise, the NPC site is the place to start.

The above sites can all be accessed through our links page.

The conclusion drawn by these groups is that noise hurts. It hurts our health, our hearing and our enjoyment of life. The following are more specifics about the impacts of noise.
Noise Impacts:
  • the most obvious impact of noise is to our hearing. The British Columbia Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) have set 85 decibels as their maximum exposure limit in the workplace. Above this level, hearing protection should be worn. They state that the threshold of pain is reached at 120 decibels, and they class 140 decibels as extreme danger. WHO values are similar while the EPA tend to have even stricter standards of 70 decibels as a maximum safe noise level in the work place. Relating this to propane cannons and AV Alarms, these devices create noise at between 115 and 130 decibels. Think of the impacts to neighbors who live close by, and berry pickers working the fields. The safe level away from the workplace, ie. around home is 50 - 55 decibels.

  • The other end of the spectrum is acceptable noise levels at home and in non work environments. Studies have found that steady noise above 50 decibels becomes a moderate annoyance and above 55 a serious annoyance at home. For health and safety reasons in a non work environment, 55 decibels is set as a safe level for outside and 45 decibels inside. Hospitals and schools safe levels are 35 decibels. So how much harm is being done and what are the annoyance levels for someone living beside a propane cannon blasting away at 120 decibels?

    The new and improved Ministry of Agriculture regulations created in January, 2002 state that propane cannons can be no closer than 150 meters from a neighboring residence, and 100 meters for other types of noisemakers. These devices produce noise at levels between 115 and 130 decibels. At 100 meters the noise produced is over 80 decibels, and over 75 decibels at 150 meters, which is much higher than specified safe levels for around the home. In fact, over 80 decibels is close to the level at which ear protection should be worn.

  • noise above safe levels leads to a number of known health impacts:
    • annoyance
    • stress
    • high blood pressure
    • sleep loss
    • the inability to concentrate
    • the inability to learn
    • loss of productivity, etc. The World Health Organization goes into these extensively.

  • Another area of concern is impacts on children and on learning. Documents state that the exposure levels set for adults should be lower for children. The concerns are that hearing could be impaired at a young age and never fully develop. Also, noise affects concentration and behavior in youngsters, and thus their ability to learn. This applies to children at school as well as children at home trying to study. And don't forget, the propane cannon season stretches well into October in British Columbia, well into the school year. The following are two articles that warn of the impacts of noise on children and how noise hampers a child's ability to learn.

    Have you heard? Noise can affect learning!
    Children and noise

    There is also an article on the NPC site about the negative impact of noise on pregnant women and their fetuses titled: " Noise: A Hazard for the Fetus and Newborn".

  • Another area that our Ministry of Agriculture people never mention, as they defend the berry farmers right to blast away with noisemakers, is the impact on other livestock and poultry. If cannons frighten the daylights out of wild birds, what do they do to the chickens in the barn next door. What are the impacts on egg production and growth rates of brood chickens raised for food?
    And how about other forms of livestock such as sheep, cattle and horses. It is well known that most animals have more acute hearing than people, so why aren't our agriculture departments concerned about this? The Ministry's own livestock publications state that, "the noise made by cannons often generates complaints from surrounding neighbours and on livestock farms will be disturbing to both the livestock and the starlings". (Ref. Starlings and Livestock Farms, Order No. 384.200-7, of March 2000).
    Why do you think so many non-berry farmers belong to our group, Ban the Cannons!

  • Another impact is property values. We bought our property about ten years ago, in February. I guess the joke's on us! We could probably sell the place again in February, but good luck selling in August. Maybe people should start asking municipal governments for tax adjustments because cannons have lessened the value of their property. Just ask our summertime guests as they leave, mostly early, what they think about cannons. A common question we get asked is, "How can you put up with that noise?"

  • And a final impact is a person's right to peace, tranquility, and enjoyment of property. The Canadian Charter of Rights states that peace, quiet and enjoyment of property are a basic human right. All municipal bylaws in the lower mainland of British Columbia said the same thing until the Farm Practices Act came along and wiped out this basic human right.


And finally some quotes from the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse are a good way to end this page:

  • Noise is unwanted sound. It is derived from the Latin word "nausea," meaning seasickness.

  • The immediate cause of noise pollution is a failure of individuals and businesses to recognize that the air around us is "common property" shared by everyone. No one has a right to fill it with noise any more than they have the right to fill it with noxious fumes. Although they often don't realize it, noisy neighbors are in fact bullies, claiming rights and freedoms that are not theirs, while degrading a precious resource, peace and quiet, that belongs to everyone.

  • Noise that is experienced by people who did not produce it is "second-hand sound," and is among the most pervasive pollutants today. Like second-hand smoke, it has detrimental effects on people who had no part in creating it.

  • Your right to make noise ends where your neighbor's right to peace and quiet begins.
Propane Cannons are a pain in the ear!

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