07/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Turn Down Noise Pollution

A leaf blower, snow blower, lawn mower and two huge dogs--Peter D'Epiro can describe in excruciating detail how his neighbour's lawn equipment and pets ruined summer afternoons and dinner parties for him and his wife for more than a decade in Ridgewood, New Jersey. But he'd rather not. "I can barely think about that situation without rushing for the Valium or the IV gin drip," he says.

With rising emotion, D'Epiro recalls how the neighbour began "warming up his rider mower, converting our idyllic backyard--birds, squirrels, crabgrass--into the sonic equivalent of La Guardia or Heathrow. Yes, he had a large yard, but the job could have been accomplished in 30 minutes, whereas he took, oh, say, six or seven hours on Saturday, often followed by another half-dozen on Sunday." D'Epiro goes on to describe how he and his wife, usually mild-mannered, exceedingly polite people, were reduced to screaming, fist-shaking and cursing in the face of these acoustic offences.

Noise brings out the worst in human beings--noisy people have been injured and even killed by their neighbours--but neighbours are just one source of noise in a world that's increasingly cacophonous. Neighbourhoods can turn into battlegrounds when clubs, restaurants, automobile sound systems and parties are acoustically unrestrained. The roadway clamour made by cars and trucks, the oppressive roar of low-flying aircraft, the rumble of commuter trains and the screeching of subway cars compound the challenges of daily life in the city or suburbs. Construction work generates lots of noise, and lots of noise complaints to civil authorities. Indoor sources include ventilation systems, office machines, home appliances, TVs and computer games.

Noise isn't just a nuisance; it's positively bad for us.

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