We are increasingly aware of the health effects of loud or persistent noise in the environment. Concerns focus on two areas: hearing loss and stress. Prolonged exposure to sounds above 80-85 decibels (a measure of the intensity of a sound wave) can cause permanent hearing loss (Figure 15.6). Hearing damage can occur after eight hours of exposure to sounds louder than 80 decibels. Regular exposure for longer than one minute to more than 100 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss. Children may suffer damage to their hearing at lower noise levels than those at which adults suffer damage.

Two common sources of excessive noise are the workplace and large gatherings of people at sporting events, rock concerts, and movie theaters. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets legal standards for noise in the workplace, but no laws exist regulating noise levels at concerts, which can be much louder than most workplaces.

Here are some ways to avoid exposing yourself to excessive noise:

• Wear ear protectors when working around noisy machinery.


• When listening to music on a headset with a volume range of 1-10, keep the volume no louder than 6. Your headset is too loud if you are unable to hear people

Sound intensity or loudness (decibels) around you speaking in a normal tone of voice. Earmuff-style headphones may be easier on the ears than earbuds, which are inserted into the ear canal. Experts warn that earbuds should not be used more than 30 minutes a day unless the volume is set below 60% of maximum; headphones can be used up to one hour. It is good to put covers over your earbuds because this can reduce the decibel level a little. Do not push your earbuds in too far. Keep the volume quite a bit

lower than you think you need because the sound is far louder than you realize.

Avoid loud music. Don’t sit or stand near speakers or amplifiers at a concert, and don’t play a car radio or stereo so loud that you can’t hear the traffic.

Avoid exposure to painfully loud sounds, and avoid repeated exposure to any sounds above 80 decibels.


Environmental health involves protecting ourselves from environmental dangers and protecting the environment from the dangers created by humans. RIGHT NOW YOU CAN

Turn off the lights, televisions, and stereos in any unoccupied rooms.

Turn off power strips when not in use.

Turn down the heat a few degrees and put on a sweater, or turn off the air conditioner and change into cooler clothes.

Check your trash for recyclable items and take them out for recycling. If your town does not provide curbside pickup for recyclable items, find out where the nearest community recycling center is.


As your existing lightbulbs burn out, replace them with compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

Have your car checked to make sure it runs as well as it can and puts out the lowest amount of polluting emissions possible.

Go online and find one of the many calculators available that can help you estimate your environmental footprint. After calculating your footprint, figure out ways to reduce it.


• Environmental health encompasses all the interactions of humans with their environment and the health consequences of those interactions.

• The world’s population is increasing rapidly, especially in the developing world. Factors that may eventually limit human population are food, availability of land and water, energy, and minimum acceptable standard of living.

• Increased amounts of air pollutants are especially dangerous for children, older adults, and people with chronic health problems.

• Factors contributing to the development of smog include heavy motor vehicle traffic, hot weather, and stagnant air.

• Carbon dioxide and other natural gases act as a greenhouse around the earth, increasing the temperature of the atmosphere. Levels of these gases are rising through human activity; as a result, the world’s climate could change.

• The ozone layer that shields the earth’s surface from the sun’s UV rays has thinned and developed holes in certain regions.

• Environmental damage from energy use can be limited through energy conservation and the development of nonpolluting, renewable sources of energy.

• Indoor pollutants can trigger allergies and illness in the short term and cancer in the long term.

• Concerns with water quality focus on pathogenic organisms and hazardous chemicals from industry and households, as well as on water shortages.

Sewage treatment prevents pathogens from contaminating drinking water; it often must also deal with heavy metals and hazardous chemicals.

• The amount of garbage is growing all the time; paper is the biggest component. Recycling can help reduce solid waste disposal problems.

• Potentially hazardous chemical pollutants include asbestos, lead, pesticides, mercury, and many household products. Proper handling and disposal are critical.

• Radiation can cause radiation sickness, chromosome damage, and cancer, among other health problems.

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