Diwali, the festival of lights is just around the corner. It’s the most widely celebrated festival in the country. Along with all the festivities, unfortunately Diwali is now associated with public health issues like air pollution and noise pollution due to bursting of fire crackers.
Noise is now well-recognized as a health hazard. Noise is an environmental stressor, which has both physiological and psychological effects.
Environmental noise is among the top environmental risks to physical and mental health and well-being, according to the WHO’s “Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region 2018”.
In its Guidelines for Community Noise published in 1997, the WHO has defined environmental noise or community noise as “noise emitted from all sources except for noise at the industrial workplace”. The guidelines also differentiate between sound and noise “Sound is a sensory perception and the complex pattern of sound waves is termed noise, music etc. Noise is thus defined as unwanted sound.”
Everyday exposure to noise over time has an impact upon our ability to hear and on the degree of hearing loss that develops. Noise pollution also has other associated health problems such as stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, heart disease. It may manifest as disturbed sleep/ insomnia, headache, fatigue, irritability, loss of concentration and decreased work efficiency. Loud noise can trigger an acute cardiovascular event.
Continuous exposure to sounds above 85 db can cause progressive hearing loss. Anyone exposed to sounds above 85 db of noise requires hearing protection.
Firecrackers are an integral part of Diwali celebration, which affect noise quality. Fire crackers generate a noise level as high as 140 dB. A short blast of loud noise can cause severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss, pain, or hyperacusis (pain associated with loud noise). This usually involves exposure to noise greater than 120 to 155 dB.
As per the Central pollution control board Fire crackers noise rules, “the manufacture, sale or use of fire-crackers generating noise level exceeding 125 dB(AI) or 145 dB(C)pk at 4 meters distance from the point of bursting shall be prohibited”.
Loud noise during Diwali can have tragic consequences as happened in Amritsar on the day of Dussehra, where reportedly people could not hear the incoming train due to fireworks and burning of Ravana.
Controlling noise pollution is the need of the hour. It’s a cause for concern. There is a need for sensitization to the adverse health impact of noise pollution.
It’s not just the government, as citizens, we too have a responsibility to keep our environment healthy.
Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Immediate Past National President IMA