A nose for news is no longer an alien term, but how about a nose for noise?
For noted environmentalist Sumaira Abdulali, it is, however, a way of helping city maintain the environmental balance. To know how much of a noise is created in six different hospitals across Mumbai, Abdulali, along with Nigel Watts of Awaaz Foundation, recorded noise levels across those hospitals on April 25.
That was, however, the first step.
The same exercise was repeated in as many hospitals in London on May 3. The noise levels were in the range of 95.1 decibels (dB) to 100.5 dB, which are comparable to a noise of a jet aircraft engine. Hospitals, as one is aware, are silence zone, where decibel levels should be no more 50dB in daytime and under 40 dB night.
“We used the same instruments to record noise levels in London. This exercise was required so that we can give informed recommendations to our traffic and government authorities to cut noise pollution. Also, so far, there has been no comparison on noise levels near hospitals in Mumbai and other parts of the world,” said Abdulali, who has spearheaded the movement against noise pollution in India.
She said both the cities had one common factor for high decibel noise – vehicular traffic.
Among other observations, Abdulali noted that decibel levels of ambulance sirens were lower inLondon. Their hospitals were also insulated against sound by the use of double glazed windows and other materials. As were their ambulances. In Mumbai, the decibel level of ambulances in Mumbai was 100dB compared to 94dB in London.
“In Mumbai, the leader of a political party had recommended that the decibel levels of an ambulance siren should be increased to help them navigate traffic easily. But ambulances are a mini hospital where the patient can get affected because of the noise. Even our ambulances are not insulated from noise,” said Abudlali.
She said she was shocked to find that in Mumbai, due to constant honking on roads, 95.1 decibels was the lowest level of sound. This, in fact, was higher than the highest level recorded in London. “The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that long-term exposure to noise levels from 85db to 90db is enough to cause hearing loss. There is an urgent need to train people to stop honking and to follow traffic discipline. Only then can we protect our silent zones,” said Abdulali.
“Like Mumbai, all these six hospitals were located on busy roads with heavy traffic density. The noise level outside the hospitals ranged between 62 dB to 88 dB. Inside the hospital lobby, the range was between 56 dB to 74 dB. Noise levels of passing ambulances with their sirens on were also measured –the highest was 94 dB,” said Abdulali.
She said in London, the sound was mainly because of vehicles, not vehicle horns. The maximum levels were 88 dB. “We will be preparing a report on our exercise, observations and recommendations, which will be submitted to traffic officials, hospital authorities. We have already sent brief details to the Indian Medical Association’s noise pollution team,” said Abdulali.