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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Noise reduction

Addressing noise reduction

Community noise levels influence the experience of residents and visitors. Noise is usually defined as a sound you don't want to hear, and over which you have no control. Community noise can come from a variety of sources, including cars, planes, and construction equipment.

Noise is an increasing public health problem. Noise can have the following adverse health effects: hearing loss; sleep disturbances; cardiovascular and mental health problems; performance reduction; annoyance responses; and adverse social behavior.

Land use planning may discourage the placement of schools, day cares, and senior centers near noise sources, separate roads from homes and schoos with open space, and restrict the levels of noise during the night.

What you can do
Instead, use public transportation, telecommute to work, bike to work, walk to do errands, carpool with neighbors or co-workers and consolidate trips.

What Public Health is doing
  • Regulation
    Public Health enacted regulations to control noise in unincorporated King County from various sources in the community and works with transportation departments and planning department on noise-related issues.

  • Prevention
    Public Health reviews proposed development and transportation projects to ensure that noise is not increased. Public Health also issues noise variances for large-scale construction projects with provisions to control the effects of noise as much as possible for nearby residents.

  • Protection
    Public Health coordinates with state agencies, other King County agencies, and incorporated cities in King County in addressing chronic noise problems.

  • Promotion
    Public Health participates with community groups to promote healthy communities through work such as Health Impact Assessments.
Local resources
National resources
International resources
  • WHO-Europe Noise Program
    The program on noise and health reviews the evidence on main health effects of noise and identifies the needs of specific vulnerable groups.
Selected articles
  • Transportation noise and cardiovascular risk: Updated review and synthesis of epidemiological studies indicate that the evidence has increased. Babisch W. Noise and Health 2006, Vol 8.

  • Exposure-effect relations between aircraft and road traffic noise exposure at school and reading comprehension: the RANCH project. Clark C, Martin R, van Kempen E, Alfred T, Head J, Davies H, Haines M, Barrio I, Matheson M, & Stansfeld S. American Journal Epidemiology 2006, 163(1), 27-37.

  • The association between noise exposure and blood pressure and ischemic heart disease: A meta-analysis. Van Kempen E, Kruize H, Boshuizen H, Ameling C, Staatsen B, and Hollander A. Environmental Health Perspectives 2002, 110(3), 307-317.

  • Spatial distribution of traffic induced noise exposures in a US city: an analytic tool for assessing the health impacts of urban planning decisions. Seto E, Holt A, Rivard T & Bhatia R. International Journal of Health Geographics 2007, 6:24.