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Noise pollution kills 600 Dutch a year

By Adriana Stuijt     Feb 23, 2009 in Environment
Noise pollution is rapidly becoming a major killer in the Netherlands. Some 17-million people are crammed into a water-logged land surface of 33,883 sq km and 7,643 sq km of busy waterways, living inside a bubble of relentless, massive noise.
Authorities say a full 600 people a year die from stress-related diseases caused only by sleep deprivation due to the country's overwhelming noise pollution. Some 5,5-million people -- more than one-third of the entire population -- frequently report serious stress- and sleep deprivation from the inescapable bubble of loud noise which surrounds the entire country. It arrives in people's homes from everywhere: traffic by road, sea, river and air, and low-frequency sonar waves which travel easily through the Dutch soil from passing military and civilian seagoing ships.
A full 700,000 people in The Netherlands have to live so close to constant noise pollution sources that they report interrupted sleep 80% of the time, year in, year out.
Water-logged soil: the perfect amplifier
The problem gets worse every year, residents report. The water-logged Dutch soil - more than two-thirds has been reclaimed from the sea and river basins -- has the same sound-carrying abilities as does water:
And it's not only the noise itself, but also the vibrations which often cause homes and apartment buildings to crack and start resonating like huge sound-boxes, picking up traffic noise often from kilometres away. Similar problems are also reported by residents in other reclaimed land areas in neighbouring countries such as Belgium, Denmark and Northern Germany.
Low Frequency Sound deadliest of all
The future looks even grimmer. A new source of noise pollution worse than anything they ever experienced before, has been added to this deadly mix. And this also causes inexplicable panic attacks among the Dutch, especially those living within 20km of the ocean: a constant low-frequency hum from passing naval and merchant ships. see here and also see
These low-frequency sound vibrations -- heard by the human ear as a deeply resonating, constant hum -- are caused by sonar- and underwater-communication equipment installed on passing naval- and merchant ships. Dutch residents report being awakened by this hum even when they live 20km inland.
In the past, nuisance from LF-sound could be solved quite easily once it was located: it was usually caused by ventilators, heating pumps, transformers and air-conditioners.
However over the past few years, many residents living near the oceans also report hearing it from military and civilian ships - and there's nothing they can do about that.
Most of this noise-pollution is caused by the military -- for instance the US Navy has plans to introduce the Low Frequency Active Sonar it in 80% of the worlds oceans. The new submarine detection system is in fact the new 'untouchable' pet of the world's navies and environmental campaigners seem helpless to stop them.
The navy just love LFA -- used at 100 to 1000 Hz, the noise-waves travel great distances and detect quiet submarines in even the most shallow water. It uses 'intense sound at levels in the range of 235 decibels or greater. This is the perfect pitch to travel long distances through even the most shallow water along coastlines to detect 'quiet' submarines. And it's also the most unnatural and hardest sound yet produced in the world's oceans.
Moreover, LFA waves do not stop travelling once they hit land -- in water-logged soil such as in The Netherlands, the LFA waves keep right on going, slicing like hot knives through butter.
And they might well be causing a massive new health threat for millions of Europeans, even when they live 20km inland. Over the past few years, there are frequent reports in the Dutch news media of mysterious, deep humming coming from the ground, with residents and authorities unable to locate this sleep-depriving hum from any land-sources.
Dangerous to whales -- and humans
At the moment, Green Peace and other environmentalist groups only seem to be concerned about the devastating effect this LFS-sonar will have on whales and dolphins - as well they should, as these rolling sound waves expose marine mammals to noise pollution at a level 200 billion times greater than that which is known to disturb and even injure them.
However, it might also be important to note that human beings also are mammals... and millions who live in water-logged environments like the Netherlands, are beginning to suffer just as much from these new infernal noise machines.
Sleep-deprived zombies...
One resident in nearby Grimbergen, in the northern-most province of Groningen, not very far from the northerly European merchant lanes, reported this week that when he and his wife moved there nineteen years earlier, the place was 'dead-silent' at night.'
However a year ago, the couple started waking up from a deeply annoying, constant hum which seemed to come from deep underground. They started wandering the streets, increasingly desperate to find the source: could it be that new municipal water-pump, or the microwave mast on top of the school half a kilometre away?
They didn't know but checked every new machine which had been installed in the area over the previous year: starting with their own new central heating system, moving on to the municipality's water-purification plant and talking to local authorities. The official reaction was disbelief: they were just imagining things, they heard. So they asked the local plumber to crawl into the basement. He also heard this constant hum, and was just as puzzled by it.
For the entire past year this couple have not had one uninterrupted night's sleep. "I often walk like a zombie through the house... I become more and more depressed and irritated from this constant, deep hum,' the unnamed resident wrote in the Volkskrant newspaper. They hear it day and night. And moving away any time soon is out of the question: the waiting lists for housing are very long and moving is cumbersome business in The Netherlands. see
Buzz-bikes, rowdy neighbours:
To make matters even worse -- if all the traffic noise from the air, the sea and the rivers, and all the new electronics-buzzing isn't bad enough -- the Dutch also are very loud neighbours themselves. The country's spirit of 'traditional tolerance' extends to tolerating exceedingly loud music and bikes without mufflers from their own offspring, for instance... These rambunctious, much-indulged and often very loud Dutch kids often are one cause of major friction in many neighbourhoods, especially on Sundays.
"Violence-related problems in the personal sphere' are reported as one of the main sources for violence between neighbours by Dutch police - and more than 90%of this violence is caused by friction over noise-pollution, i.e. yobbish behaviour, between neighbours.Sometimes, entire neighbourhoods can erupt in sudden protests over one specific source of particularly annoying noise if the authorities don't react quickly enough to try and solve such problems. see
Clay-pigeon shooting in nature reserve
The central authorities often aren't very helpful either: now they even allow clay-pigeon shoots on the country's only remaining 'quiet spot', the Veluwe nature reserve, despite many protests from surrounding residents and nature lovers. see
59 decibels
A maximum sound-level of 59 decibels was legally set as the 'comfort level' for residents living near high-traffic areas throughout the Netherlands. Thus by law, all new roads must have sound walls around residential areas to deflect the traffic noise if it can be determined that the noise-pollution would exceed 59 decibels.
However many Dutch residents have over the past few years, reported registering much higher noise levels inside their homes 24 hours a day - on all days except Sundays. And this noise pollution is recorded in all the towns, even inside homes protected by sound walls.
This dramatic growth in noise pollution is also becoming a serious public health problem.
Health-authorities report that an annual 300,000 Dutch residents become so ill from this sleep-deprivation, that they develop chronic illnesses and psychiatric problems.
Some 600 people a year die from high blood pressure and cardiac arrest caused only by sleep-deprivation and stress from chronic, overwhelming noise-pollution, doctors are reporting.
Yet there is no official central government department attempt to reduce this growing tsunami of mechanical and low-frequency electronic noise, keeping millions of citizens from getting a decent night's sleep in The Netherlands. Also see my previous report here
In fact, the Dutch government is at the moment, considering replacing its fleet of aging F16 military jet fighters, and is looking at two candidates without worrying about the increased noise pollution these machines would cause: the Swedish Gripen and the Joint Strike Fighter of Lockheed-Martin.
The villagers near the military airport of Leeuwarden had to start investigating the noise-pollution potential of these jet fighters themselves. And discovered that they would have to endure a 20,6 decibel increase in sound pollution from the proposed the Joint Strike Fighter.
Residents in The Netherlands thus have had to become very militant before the authorities will pay attention to their complaints. Constant pressure by action groups is the only way to force the authorities to consider the noise-pollution levels of the new jet fighters, and to ban all night-flights. Citizens must be on constant guard to prevent new plans which would add to their noise-pollution stress levels - otherwise the authorities will simply allow more and more noisy machines into their sound-bubbles.
Even the most benign, peace loving residents around Schiphol international airport near Amsterdam have all become very militant over the years, fighting for their rights to get an uninterrupted night of sleep. These residents know that they must never let their guard down; they must remain a constant thorn in the side of the authorities
At the moment residents around Schiphol are fighting against plans to add another runway, and the authorities also are still refusing to ban all night-flights. see
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