Comparative Study Of Noise Pollution

Ranjit Singh

noise pollutionCHAPTER 5




Due to the advancement of science and technology, the problem of noise in recent years has emerged as one of the important pollutants of environment in many countries. Noise pollution is a growing problem throughout the world. In many countries the problem due to noise pollution has been increasing day by day in urban and industrial areas. Noise pollution in many countries has increased to such an extent that it affected the people to a great extent. The WHO estimates that noise is responsible for more than 200,000 deaths each year in Europe alone. The threat from noise in industrial countries raises problems similar in some respects to that of climate change. Complaints about noise nuisance to local authorities in England and Wales have arisen dramatically over recent years, from just over 55,370 in 1980 to 232,247 in 1995/96.[1] Under this chapter we will discuss the problem of noise pollution in developing and developed countries and legal measures for control of noise pollution in those countries.



Globally, some 120 million people are estimated to have disabling hearing problems.  More than half of the citizens of Europe live in noisy surroundings; one third experience levels of noise at night that disturbs sleep.[2] Noise pollution is increasing across Europe. Noise is a problem in all major cities in Europe. In the United Kingdom, 8.5 million people have hearing difficulties, some of which can be treated. Noise complaints in the U.K have increased by over 25 times from 1971 to 1996. Noise is now the most common reason for complaints received by environmental health officers. Neighbourhood noise has become a serious problem in Great Britain. A Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) study has found that 80% of young people don’t worry about their hearing, although half of them have trouble of listening to loud music.

In Germany and other developed countries as many as 4 to 5 million that is 12-15% of all employed people, are exposed to noise levels of 85 dB or more. In Germany, an acquired noise-related hearing impairment that results in 20% or more reduction in earning ability is compensatable.  In 1993, nearly 12,500 new such cases of noise pollution were registered.[3]

In Australia, most hearing loss in young people is due to loud noise or music, the people under 30 are starting to show signs of hearing loss formerly found in those over 50.

In Hong Kong, noise from traffic, especially trucks, is increasing day by day on the roads. The experts indicate that the problem of noise will get much worse in coming years. In Thailand, where traffic jams are part of daily life, it is hard to escape noise pollution. For people living near the expressway, escape is impossible from noise pollution. Thailand has hearing problems because of their continuous exposure to noise levels above 70 decibels.

In United States of America twenty eight million Americans suffer from some type of hearing loss. Due to advancement in technology the two largest sources of noise pollution, airport and vehicle traffic, are growing at a rate of three to five percent annually and there has been a 14% increase in hearing loss since 1971. Noise pollution continues to grow in New York City. The City is trying stronger measures to lower noise levels. The U.S. Veterans’ Administration has spent $4 billion dealing because of hearing loss from 1977-1998.



Stockholm Conference on Human Environment was convened in the Year 1972 by UNO and after this, various other conferences have been held. However the subject of noise pollution was not touch specifically. The Conference suggested “that 10% of any population is likely to become highly annoyed when exposed to noise levels in the uncomfortable range of 55db. The highly annoyed proportion, however, can grow upto 45% at the unacceptable level of 65db and at 85db of 75% become extremely annoyed.”[4]

At present there is no international law for controlling noise pollution but International and European Community Laws lay down certain norms in respect of noise pollution control. There has been much concern of international law, particularly with aircraft noise issues. The principle standards setting body is the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which was set up under the Chicago Convention of 1944.

Under the Chicago Convention there is provision for international legal basis to regulate Aircraft Noise.[5] The European Community (E.C.) formally took action on noise for the first time in its second action programme in 1977 though there had been some antecedent measures. The E.C. has relied on noise standards set up by other inter national bodies such as I.C.A.O. and historically has also tendered to follow the paths of compromising national standards. European noise standards normally harmonies ambient noise levels as well as noise standards for individual generators of noise. Now E.C  have laid down certain noise standards to be observed by the nations in various kinds of industries,  motor vehicles, motorcycles, tractors, construction plants, aircrafts and household appliances.


5.3.2 Response of WHO regarding Noise Pollution

The role of World Health Organization (WHO) about the control of noise pollution is also noteworthy.[6] It is to raise the standard of health of the people which can be adversely affected by noise. Although, WHO is not an authority to prescribe the limits of noise, it recommends some permissible limits of noise which are just advisory for its member states. The WHO has responded in two main ways by developing and promoting the concept of noise management, and by drawing up community noise guidelines. The WHO guideline values are organized according to specific environment. Guideline values for community noise in specific environments are shown in the following table.



Guideline Values


Environment Critical health effect Sound level dB(A) Time hours
Outdoor living areas Annoyance 50-55 16
Indoor dwellings Bedrooms Speech intelligibility 35 16
Bedrooms School classrooms Sleep disturbance 30 8
School classrooms Disturbance of communication 35 During Class
Industrial, commercial and traffic areas Hearing impairment 70 24
Music through earphones Hearing impairment 85 1
Ceremonies and entertainment Hearing impairment 100 4


[1] www.who.int (Guidelines Values)Visited on 13 april,2010 at 12:40 PM



Different countries of the World have enacted different legislations to control the noise pollution. For Example, in England there is a Noise Abatement Act, 1960. This Act[8] provides that loudspeakers should not be operated between the hours of 9:00 in the evening and 8:00 in the following morning for any purpose and at any other time for the purpose of advertisement and entertainment, trade or business. Control on Pollution Act of 1974,[9] contains provisions for controlling noise pollution and it provides noise to be actionable must amount to nuisance in the ordinary legal sense. The English Control of Pollution Act,[10] 1974, operates as perfect control for ‘Street Noise’. This provision has been defined as a highway and any other road, footway or square or court which is for the time being open to public.[11]

Some other countries also have their specific legislation on noise. For instance, in the United States of America, the Noise Control Code, 1972 (Federal), New York Noise Control Code, 1972 and Chicago Noise Control Regulation, 1971, in Japan, Noise Control Laws of 1968, are the specific laws to control the growing problem of noise pollution.[12]  In Japan, there is Anti Pollution Basic Law which helps to control the pollution including noise pollution.



The main statutory provisions which relate to noise pollution in United Kingdom are as follows:[13]

1. Control of Pollution Act1974;

2. Environmental Protection Act 1990;

3. Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993;

4. Town and County Planning Act 1990;

5. Health and Safety at Work Act 1974;

6. Land Compensation Act 1973;

7. Civil Aviation Act 1982.

The latter three legislations deal, respectively, with the problem of noise in the workplace,   duty of public authorities to insulate buildings against noise created by public works such as roads, buildings and noise generated from civil aircrafts.

This Act makes provision about noise emitted from dwellings at night; about the forfeiture and confiscation of equipment used to make noise unlawfully; and for connected purposes. The kind of complaint referred to is one made by any individual present in a dwelling during night hours that excessive noise is being emitted from another dwelling. “Night hours” means the period beginning with 11 p.m. and ending with 7 a.m. The Act provides for the service of a notice on the offender by the prescribed officer if he thinks that the noise being emitted is more than the permissible limits.  In cases where the noise level does not come down in spite of the notice being served, the officer can seize such equipments which in his opinion are the source of such noise.


  5.5.1 Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993

Chapter 14 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 dealt with the main framework of control over statutory nuisances contained in sections 79-82. These sections deal specifically with noise as a statutory nuisance. The provisions in the EPA relating to noise nuisances were amended by the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993, which received Royal assent in November 1993. The majority of the new provisions came into force in January 1994. In particular the 1993 Act incorporated a new statutory nuisance into the EPA a  section 79(1) (ga).

This Act[14] makes provision for noise in a street to be a statutory nuisance; to make provision with respect to the operation of loudspeakers in a street; to make provision with respect to audible intruder alarms; to make provision for expenses incurred by local authorities in abating, or preventing the recurrence of, a statutory nuisance to be a charge on the premises to which they relate; and for connected purposes.[15]



The US Noise Pollution and Abatement Act, 1970 is an important legislation for regulating control and abatement of noise. Under this Law the environment protection agency, acting through the office of Noise Abatement and Control, holds public meetings in selected cities to compile information on noise pollution.


5.6.1 The Public Health and Welfare: –   Noise Control

The Congress[16] declares that it is the policy of the United States to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health or welfare. To that end, it is the purpose of this chapter to establish a means for effective coordination of Federal research and activities in noise control, to authorize the establishment of Federal Noise Emission  Standards for products distributed in commerce, and to provide information to the public respecting the noise emission and noise reduction characteristics of such products.

The Act further provides for –

1. Identification of major noise sources

2. Noise emission standards for products distributed in commerce

3. Labeling

4. Quiet communities, research, and public information

5. Development of low-noise-emission products

6. Motor carrier noise emission standards


5.6.2  Environmental Quality Standards of Noise in United States of   America:[17]

In United States absolute criteria for noise exposure to a community do not exist, instead there are guidelines (USEPA,1974) published by the US Environment Protection Agency in 1974 as follow up of the Noise Control Act of 1972. These guidelines prohibit excessive noise in general terms but do not forbid construction or operation of other facilities on the basis of the effects of anticipated noise emissions in nearby communities. However, regulations restricting new housings in certain areas imposed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development do exist.


Table -9[1]

Equivalent Sound Levels identified as requisite to Public Health and Welfare by the US Environment Protection Agency


S. No Area Measure db(A) Indoor Outdoor
Activity Influence Hearing loss consideration Activity influence Hearing Loss consideration
Residential Ldn* 45 55
Hospital Leq(24)** 70 70
Educational Leq(24) 45 70 55 70
Commercial / Traffic Leq(24) 70 70
Industrial recreational Area Leq (24) 70 70
Farmland /General un populated land Leq(24) 70


[1]Ibid at p.40



The purpose of this Law is to preserve living environment and contribute to protection of the people’s health by regulating noise generated by the operation of factories and other types of work sites as well as construction work affecting a considerable area, and by setting maximum permissible levels of motor vehicle noise.[19]

The Prefect Ural Governor shall designate concentrated residential areas, school and hospital zones, and other such areas in which it is deemed necessary to protect the living environment of the residents from noise, as areas subject to the regulation of noise produced by specified  factories and specified construction works.

The Prefect Ural Governor, while designating the areas pursuant to Paragraph 1 of the preceding Article, shall establish regulatory standards for specified hours and zones of said areas within the scope of the standards set forth by the Director General of the Environment Agency according to the necessary degree of noise control in regard to specified factories for specified hours and zones.  Persons installing specific facilities are liable to report the same to

the Prefect Ural Governor within 30 days.

The Governor has the powers to order change in the outlay of the factory when they do not confer to the noise regulations. Any party who plans to undertake construction projects which involve specified construction work in designated areas, shall file a report with the Prefect Ural Governor not later than seven days prior to the beginning of the said construction.

The Prefect Ural Governor shall be responsible for the monitoring of noise levels in designated areas. For the regulation on noise caused by announcement through the use of loudspeakers and noise emitted during the night time operation of bars and restaurants, local Government shall take measures necessary to protect the living environment, including restrictions on operating hours, in accordance with the local, physical and social conditions.  The regulations also prescribe the permissible noise levels for the various areas, as well as the time periods between which noise is emitting.



.      This Law is enacted for the purpose of preventing and controlling environmental noise pollution, protecting and improving the living environment, ensuring human health and promoting economic and social development.

For the purposes of this Law, “environmental noise” means the sound that is emitted in the course of industrial production, construction, transportation and social activities and that impairs the living environment of the neighbourhood. The competent administrative department for environmental protection under the State Council shall, in accordance with the national standards for acoustic environmental quality and the State’s economic and technological conditions, fix national limits for environmental noise emission.

Every project under construction, renovation or expansion must conform to the regulations of the State governing environmental protection.

The industrial noise emitted to the living environment of the neighbourhood within an urban area shall be kept within the limits set by the State on emission of environmental noise within the boundary of an industrial enterprise.

The construction noise emitted to the living environment of the neighbourhood within an urban area shall be kept within the limits set by the State on the emission of environmental noise within the boundary of a construction site. It is forbidden to manufacture, sell or import automobiles that emit noise beyond the limits set on noise level. All units and individuals are forbidden to use high-pitch loudspeakers in urban areas where noise-sensitive structures are concentrated. Any unit or individual suffering from the hazards of environmental noise pollution shall have the right to demand the polluter to eliminate the hazards; if a loss has been caused, it shall be compensated according to law.

“Noise emission” means emission of noise from the source to the living environment of the neighbourhood.”Noise-sensitive structures” means structures that require a quiet environment such as hospitals, schools, government offices, research institutions and residential buildings.

“Areas where noise-sensitive structures are concentrated” means such areas as medical treatment areas, cultural, educational and research areas where government offices or residential buildings constitute the main buildings. “At night” means the period from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.



In New South Wales (NSW) no single Government authority has the responsibility or capacity to be able to minimize all forms of noise pollution. The State is excluded from control of noise in a number of areas by commonwealth legislation. These include aircraft noise, where noise limits could affect trade, and the setting standards for noise emissions from new vehicles. In areas where the State does have powers to control noise, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has an overall responsibility for environmental noise (as distinct from occupational noise), under the Noise Control Act 1975. The Act deals with the prevention, minimization and abatement of noise and vibration and empowers the EPA, the Waterways Authority, local Government and the police for these purposes.

The EPA controls noise from scheduled premises, those required by the Noise Control Act to have a license and noise associated with rail traffic and the construction or upgrading of freeways and toll roads. The Police and local Council are generally responsible for neighbourhood noise issues and have authority to issue noise abatement directions to control noise from premises and for noise from burglar alarms. Local Council has an essential role in minimizing the effects of excessive noise, particularly in their local residential areas, from smaller factories, non-scheduled premises and public places. The Waterways Authority has specific responsibilities in relation to noise from vessels in navigable waters.

Under the provisions of the Noise Control Act 1975 in NSW the railway system is classified as scheduled premises and as such the EPA has a regulatory role, and seeks to achieve noise targets for rail operations throughout the State to minimize the impact on local residents.

The EPA issues licenses for the management of scheduled premises. While  issuing a license the EPA sets initial noise limits that are achievable with the operation of plant and equipment currently installed, operated and maintained effectively. To achieve further improvements in noise exposure to residents, negotiations with the licensed premises are carried out and can be incorporated in the license as Pollution Reduction Programs (PRPs). The EPA is currently working with industry to reduce noise levels from major sources.

The Noise Control (Miscellaneous Articles) Regulation 1995 was introduced to cover community noise issues not covered by previous legislation. It includes limitations on burglar alarms for both residential and commercial premises. Changes have been made to the night-time control of common domestic noise sources such as power tools, air conditioners, amplified music and lawn movers. Under the new regulation, only one warning to the offender is required and the warning is valid for 28 days. If an offence is committed within this period then fine will be imposed without further warnings. The previous regulation warning was only active for 12 hours which meant it was not very effective with repetitious offences typical in suburban areas.

The Noise Control (Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Accessories) Regulation 1995 controls the noise of individual motor vehicles. It includes a provision to control noise from a range of accessories including horns, alarms, refrigeration units and sound systems. It also places responsibility to ensure compliance of repairs/modifications of vehicles on the vehicle repairers.  In addition to the measures introduced to reduce the source and transmission of noise, measures can be undertaken to noise proof buildings thereby reducing the occupant exposure to noise.




Montgomery County of the U.S. State of Maryland is situated just north of Washington, D.C. and southwest of Baltimore. Most of the county’s approximately 950,680 residents  live in unincorporated locales, the most populous of which are Silver Spring, Germantown, and Bethesda, though the incorporated cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg are also large population centers. It is a part of both the Washington Metropolitan Area and the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area.[21]

The Montgomery County Noise Control Ordinance allows for normal activities during regular hours, however, it does attempt to eliminate interference from noise when most of  people want to rest and relax. It also seeks to control disturbing and unhealthy levels of noise in general.

Key provisions of the Noise Control Ordinance:

(i) Provide day/night sound level limits.

(ii) Establish “quiet hours.”

(iii) Define sounds that constitute noise disturbances.

(iv) Establish a “nuisance provision” that prohibits certain noises at any time.

A ‘noise disturbance’ as defined by the Ordinance, is any sound that is unpleasant, annoying, or loud; abnormal for the time or location; and prejudicial to health, comfort, property, or the conduct of business. Under the Ordinance, it is unlawful to create a noise disturbance anywhere during “quiet hours,” including multi- family buildings and townhouses. The “nuisance provision” prohibits some noise disturbances anywhere at any time. The Montgomery County Noise Control Ordinance promotes peace and quiet for everyone by covering a wide area.



In this chapter we have discussed the various legislations of different countries for controlling noise pollution. But these legislations are not adequate to curb the problem of noise pollution. By comparatively analyzing the noise pollution control laws in England, United States of America, China, Australia and Japan we have come to know that there are specific legislations in all the above mentioned countries to control noise pollution. But in India there is no specific legislation to control the noise pollution. The Rules[22] framed by the Indian Government under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 are inadequate to control the whole problem of noise pollution. Due to advancement in science and technology the problem of noise pollution has been increased to large extent. So the need of the hour is to curb the menace of noise pollution at international level by implementing the strict laws and by making people aware about the problem of noise pollution.


[1] Stuart bell, the Law and Policy Relating To the Protection of the Environment, 446
[2] http://www.who.int/mediacentre  visited  on  April 13, 2010 at 12:10 PM
[3] Ibid
[4] Nomita Aggarwal, Noise Pollution in Environment Administration Law and Judicial Attitude cited in Paras Diwan(ed), pp.415
[5] Article 9 of the Chicago Convention
[6] N.S Kamboj 1999,Control of Noise Pollution p.50
[7] www.who.int (Guidelines Values)Visited on 13 april,2010 at 12:40 PM
[8] Section 2 of the noise Abatement Act,1960
[10] Section 62 of English Control of Pollution Act,1974
[11] P.S Jaswal 2003, Environmental Law p.334
[12] S.K Aggarwal 2002, Pollution Management,Noise PollutionVol.5 p.37
[13]Susan  Wolf & Anna White 1995, Environmental Law p.391
[14] Section 79(1)(ga)
[15] Susan  Wolf & Anna White 1995, Environmental Law p.394
[16] Capter 65 of Noise Control Act,1972
[17] S.K Aggarwal 2002, Pollution Management,Noise PollutionVol.5 p.38
[18]Ibid at p.40
[19] N.S Kamboj 1999,Control of Noise Pollution p.50
[20] adopted on October 29, 1996
[21] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_County,_Maryland
[22] The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 20000

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