top of page

Transcript: Podship Earth Episode 027: Cacophony

JARED BLUMENFELD: Welcome to Podship Earth. This is your host, Jared Blumenfeld. Of all the five senses, our hearing is perhaps the most precious. If we lose it, we lose contact with the people we love and the world around us. Humans evolved their acute hearing millions of years ago when we needed to accurately locate predators that might eat us, so it's not surprising that we find some loud noises stressful. It's hardwired into each of us. This week we're going to examine noise pollution and how it's impacting our health. We've been grappling with how to deal with this issue for a very long time. Julius Caesar was the first to regulate road noise back in 44 BC. He declared that no wheeled vehicle whatsoever will be allowed within the precincts of the city from sunrise until the hour before dusk. Nearly 2000 years later, the US recognized that noise pollution was a serious health problem, and in 1972, congress found that inadequately controlled noise presents a growing danger to the health and welfare of the nation's population, particularly in urban areas, and that major sources of noise include transportation, vehicles and equipment, machinery, appliances and other products in commerce. It passed The Noise Control Act and later The Quiet Communities Act and gave the EPA the responsibility for implementation. So far, so good. In 1978, the US Surgeon General William Stewart said, calling noise pollution a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience. Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere. Because of heavy lobbying by the automobile and airplane industries, the words of the surgeon general and even the anti-noise statutes were largely ignored and three years later at the start of the Reagan administration, EPA’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was completely defunded. States and localities were given the job of dealing with noise and the result is that the US is now behind much of the world when it comes to tackling noise pollution. The World Health Organization based in Berlin is now the global authority on the impact of noise. It describes noise that vastly underestimated threat, which can cause everything from hearing loss to heart issues, to depression, to stress, and even cognitive impairment. Last year at German company Mimi that makes online hearing tests produced a world hearing index based on data from that 500,000 users worldwide. The data showed that a person living in the loudest cities like Guangzhou in China experience 20 years of accumulated hearing loss, so a 40-year-old has a hearing normally associated with a 60-year-old. The Mimi study showed a 64 percent correlation between noise pollution and hearing loss. In broad terms, air pollution and noise pollution co-exist. Cars, trucks and factories produce a lot of both. In the US, we spent a great deal of time successfully reducing air pollution from vehicles and other sources. However, what science is now discovering is that long term exposure to traffic noise actually has a big impact on our blood biochemistry, which affects our cardiovascular system and has been linked to instances of Type 2 diabetes. The World Health Organization reports that noise pollution is responsible for the loss of more than 1 million life years in Europe each year, with the majority of death attributable to high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. The medical explanation for what's going on is that a stress hormone called cortisol is released when triggered by noise and cortisol damages blood vessels over time. We release cortisol because we're hardwired to be scared of loud noises, so it's not surprising that noise pollution is also blamed for 900,000 cases of hypertension a year in Europe alone. Low noise from traffic and planes is classified this ambient noise pollution, whereas your neighbor's house party is defined as a nuisance. In the case of nuisance noise, there's lots of things you can do from contacting local government to initiating a legal remedy, but with noise pollution from traffic and increasingly from construction, there are very few options. Enjoying a quiet life is now seen as a luxury for which you have to pay. Houses next to busy roads are loud and most often occupied by low income families who have fewer housing options. As we heard in Episode 19 “Coded Inequality,” low income communities who are often already compromised when it comes to the health get hit again by noise pollution. A 2015 study in Germany found that those living next to noisy streets are 25 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those living in quiet neighborhoods. In the US, studies show that the more economically divided and racially segregated the city, the worse the noise pollution for everyone, rich and low income. This seems borne out by the list of the 10 largest cities in the US, which are Detroit, Oakland, Memphis, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston, and Jacksonville. Later in the show, we'll talk with June Weintraub and Jonathan Piakis who oversee noise reduction programs in San Francisco, but first I wanted to spend a full day recording the sounds that are increasingly driving me to distraction. Most people have a romantic view of our city by the Bay, thinking that the air is filled with the sounds of cable cars and seagulls, but the reality as we just heard is that San Francisco is one of the noisiest cities in the country.            


Okay, I start my day. I wake up to my alarm, which is not at old peaceful. Maybe I need to replace it with something more soothing.

The morning sounds continue at 7:00 AM, when construction begins next door, currently a floor sanding project.

Then the school bus stops and idols, which is soon after followed by the recycling and composting truck. 

Next up are the gardeners who tend to the postage stamp size plots, who now arrive on the scene.

First comes the leaf blowers, which are the bane of anyone who records a podcast at home, and in fact a nightmare to all sentient beings. 

Just when I think they've packed it in for the day, out come the lawnmowers to cut the three foot by five-foot yard down the street. Then to add insult to injury, they pull out the power washer.  As much as I like clean sidewalks, I hate these ear-splitting machines.

I decided to get the hell out of the house and go downtown early for a meeting. I start by walking down twin peaks, passing a truck, reversing down a narrow alley, of course, delivering Amazon packages. This is already turning out to be a less peaceful day than I had imagined. 

I keep walking, trying to stay Zen as both an ambulance and then a new hellhound police equipped with what’s known as a rumble siren zooms by. Finally, I get to the train platform.       


Actually, the train sounds kind of quiet compared to everything else. Getting off the train, there's a Fox News TV crew filming something from a helicopter above. It’s like I’m in Blade Runner 3. Everywhere around me is construction. 

I pass by a huge cement mixer. Then the screeching tracks of an ancient bulldozer moving the steel grates on the street. And then the construction site for one of the city's many new 40 plus story luxury condo buildings appears to my left. Downtown San Francisco is at sea level, so in order to build anything they need to smash steel posts 300 feet into the ground, at which point they hit bedrock which is needed to support the skyscraper. The tool that is used to do this is not quiet. I promise that we're nearly done, but first I want to bring you to the last remaining low-income communities in San Francisco, which are all next to freeways and where car alarms seemed to be going off. Now I walk over to the houses next to Highway 101, which goes all the way down to LA. Standing next to the highway, it's no wonder that people's health is affected from having to put up with this cacophony day in and day out. The levels of ambient noise pollution are just completely out of control and it is low-income communities that suffer the most.

That's one reason why in cities across the nation there's such a huge gap in mortality between the rich and poor.  Bizarrely, right where I'm standing is a trauma ward for SF General Hospital. I hope they've got good soundproofed windows. The baby community of San Francisco is also right under the flight path to the airport, so there really is no rest for the weary. 

It's been the end of a noisy day, but somehow, I have one more event on my calendar - a fun party at my wife Alex’s art studio. The next day I go and meet with June Weintraub and Jonathan Piakis who both work at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. June oversees the noise program and Jonathan is the Noise Control Officer. I started by asking Jonathan, what's keeping him busy? 

JONATHAN PIAKIS: There's a number of different noise issues in the city, probably in the thousands, per year. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: I just looked this up, and the police department last year fielded 28,213 noise related calls.

JONATHAN PIAKIS: There's just a lot of development in the city, so there's a lot of construction compliance that comes in. We also get a bunch from entertainment venues, whether it's live music or DJs, clubs, stuff like that. We get traffic complaints. We'll get your standard house party complaints. We get a little bit of everything. Every time, I think now I've seen it all, there'll be a new complaint, one we haven't seen before. Most recently, it was outdoor fish tanks, which I had never even thought of as a noise source. You always hear about the barking dog complaints and those are pretty regular. Did get a cat complaint. It was nine cats where the noise source, there’s not much we can do about that, but we, we gave it a shot to try and try and resolve the issue for the residents. So, when I say we've seen it all, we've literally seen it all… or I guess heard at all.   

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, what's your expectation of the level of noise that's acceptable? Like, how do we define that? 

JONATHAN PIAKIS: Noise is very difficult because just people experience it in different ways. What might be an exorbitant amount of noise to one person may not be for another one. So, the good thing is we do have meters available that'll put a number on it. What we say in general for most issues, it's eight decibels above a background level. So, eight decibels above ambient is a general level for like a commercial mixed-use kind of area. That's what we shoot for with that. And then inside residential dwelling units, it's a little more stringent, and it's a flat rate of 45 decibels for night and 55 decibels. We want to make sure it's quieter at night when people are there, getting the sleep that they need to function in everyday life.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Decibels are the units used to measure the intensity of a sound. The decibel scale is logarithmic, which means that a 50-decibel sound is 10 times louder than a 40-decibel sound, even though it's only perceived as about twice as loud. The reason for this odd measurement system is because the human ear is incredibly sensitive. We can hear everything from our fingertips slightly brushing our face to a loud engine. For instance, the noise or jet producers is about 1 trillion times more powerful than the smallest audible sound. As a way of giving you a sense of what this means, in this following clip of a highway, the first five seconds is 10 decibels louder than the second half of the clip.  I saw on the website that they could start jackhammering at seven in the morning. How do people come up with that?  


JONATHAN PIAKIS: We have a very lenient, generous construction restrictions in the noise ordinance. It’s 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. So, it can go a little later than that and then they could also obtain a night noise permit for, for some stuff outside of those hours. It is seven days a week. So, a lot of other jurisdictions do not allow it on the weekends. But our powers that be decided that 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM would be allowable for everyday of the week. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: It's actually shocking that San Francisco doesn't have a single day of quiet. 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: Noise is, like Jonathan said, a perception issue. And one person's noise is another person's music. There are some things that we agree on and that's part of what we try to do with the noise ordinance is say, well, I think we all can agree that jackhammering at 11:00 PM is noise. And even if it serves some greater good, like building affordable housing, it is still not okay to raise people's heart rates and their cortisol levels, wake them up, disturb their sleep. All of the things that noise, any kind of thing that is irritating, is going to bother people and potentially cause some sort of health problem. So that's the line that we try to walk.              


JARED BLUMENFELD: So, let's, let's use a jackhammer, because it's kind of universally understood. I mean, I guess it does make sense that 11:00 PM, it shouldn't be operational, but for me in a residential neighborhood, I work at home. I run a podcast at 11:00 AM, it's still very, very, very loud. In case you needed a reminder from yesterday of the sound of jackhammering.  But let's pretend that there was a quieter jackhammer available, a lower decibel level jackhammer. How would you change the rules so that the construction companies could only use lower decibel jackhammers?     


JONATHAN PIAKIS: Yes. Jackhammering, wow. It's a tough one because inherently it's just loud and you can only get it so quiet. So, what we have, is a little clause in the noise ordinance that we seem to like, and it seems to be working pretty well, is that none of the noise limits really apply. Obviously, the time restriction does, but if you can prove to us that that jackhammer that you're using is retrofitted with the best available control technology, then the actual decibel limit for construction will not apply. So basically, what we're trying to do, is say, get it as quiet as humanly possible and then you can use it during those times. But with that, the contractors have to show us that they do have the best available muffler from the manufacturer or shroud or other attenuation device to make it as quiet as possible. Because if we can do that and make it as quiet as possible, we feel pretty good about what we've done and reducing the impact for surrounding neighbors. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: Are we going to get to a place where rather than saying you're using the best available control technology to limit the sound of the jackhammer, that you can't use a jackhammer at all. You’ve got to use shovels and handpicks. For instance, I was just in the wilderness areas of the National Forest. They don't allow any chainsaws. So, every tree has to be cut by hand. They don't say you have to use the quietest chainsaw. So, you just can't use a chainsaw, so is there going to be a point, like I'm ready for that point right now, where we don't have any jackhammers in the city at any time. You just have got to use shovels. 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: There's some things that you can sensibly regulate and there are some that you can't. Where do you draw the line between what makes sense and what is ideal? 


JARED BLUMENFELD: My experience as a regulator is that standards were promulgated for clean water or clean air based on epidemiological studies that showed that this amount of us, nick is actually bad for you and isn't acceptable in water or this amount of particulate matter or mercury in air is bad for you. So, I guess I'm trying to get to - with noise, is there a similar trend or is it really just balancing the social interests? 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: I also think noise is different because it doesn't accumulate. There isn't a single quantity that persists through time and space. It changes. The objective measurement that we have of it is only one piece of why and how it causes a health problem. Another big part of our guidance for noise in the city that we try to promote is kind of the idea of getting along with your neighbors. Something's bothering you, figure out how to talk. Safety issues sometimes often enter into whether we care about annoyance or not. Whether we care about an annoying potentially sleep disrupting cortisol, raising noise. So, for example, if I live next to a fire department and when they pull out, they use their sirens, that might disrupt my sleep. 


JARED BLUMENFELD:  You kind of know you're getting into that.


JUNE WEINTRAUB: Exactly. And that is something that we've grappled with really hard here in the city because there's all this new construction, so people move into a new building and there's an empty lot or an old building next door and then suddenly there's construction, and they didn't bargain for that. The flip side of it is there is an entertainment venue that's been there for 40 years and people come and go late at night and make sounds and some of the music maybe filters out into the world. And I moved there yesterday, and it wakes me up. So, either way, I might complain. But whose job is it to say I have my complaint takes precedence over your noise creation? 


JARED BLUMENFELD:  I thought that was your job, June.

JUNE WEINTRAUB: Yeah, it is. 


JARED BLUMENFELD:  So as background in the city gets louder and louder, does that threshold keep creeping up? So, it's eight decibels above something even louder and louder, right?


JONATHAN PIAKIS: Yeah, that is, that is an issue because as more noise sources come into the city, it's kind of raising that ambient floor. The main thing that makes up ambient in the city is traffic and cars as noise sources. So, we do work with the planning department and kind of think three steps ahead or try to, as much as we can, for new development in the city. One of the things that you'd want to think about what with noise is not only the intensity, so how loud it is, but the duration too. So, say actually say we don't want to allow jackhammers at all anymore, then that construction project over at new residential building instead of taking a year and a half, it's going to take two years, two and a half years, and that brings all the noise sources with that as well. Exposing people for maybe less noise, but a longer duration. You don't want people to be exposed to noise sources too long, but you also want to try and control that intensity as much as possible. There's such a wide range of noise levels, just let alone in this city. It's really hard to compare, I think city to city, because we have places in the sunset that are below 40 decibels 30 decibels. And then we have places in Soma, in the financial district, that rarely get below 60 decibels ambient.                                   


JARED BLUMENFELD: This is pet peeve of mine. Both of you can talk to it and it's easier than a jackhammer, which is a leaf blower. They are the bane of my existence, because they have a very, very high pitch. I go outside, look out the window, and I see someone, like blowing three leaves around. What should I say to my neighbors who, God knows it's not even them, it's the gardeners, are using a leaf blower. Like, how do I engage in that social interaction? 


JONATHAN PIAKIS: That's a good question. I’m right with you on that one. I hate leaf blowers. I wish they would all go away, and I am all for just completely outlawing them, as far as use. Not only does it create an exorbitant amount of noise that you're absolutely right, there's probably equally as efficient ways of doing it and not to mention, it's kind of getting back to what you were saying about the particulate matter. It's basically kicking all of that stuff up into the air. So, it's not only noise, it's air quality. Usually, they're gasoline powered or diesel-powered. There's some of the electric ones, which actually tend to be a little bit quieter. But I'm with you. Yeah. Those things need to go. So, I will talk to your neighbor and we'll get those things all sorted out for you. It will solve all your problems basically. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: Awesome. It like we're very encouraging and embracing of construction. How did we decide that we should be seven days a week allowing construction noise as opposed to other cities that have just five or six days?


JUNE WEINTRAUB: Yeah, that's an excellent question. I don't know how much thought was putting into it being seven days, but once seven days existed, rolling it back becomes a lot harder. It's about trade-offs and it is about the culture of the city and the elected officials as well. I think that anti-leaf blower ordinance has come up before but never goes anywhere. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: It seems to really impact the nature of livability in a city. 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: Well, one of the areas of research that I've been really interested in is this idea that you can almost immunize people against the irritation of noise by providing quiet places for them. So, as somebody who enjoys the wilderness, you know, the rejuvenation and improvement in your level of patience and your general overall feeling of wellbeing when you're in a quiet place. And there has been some research that actually shows that if you provide a well a park or even a quiet location, like a library, that actually improves an individual's ability to biochemically handle the response to a difficult noise. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: What's happening when we hear irritating sounds? 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: In the moment that you have an irritating sound, a lot of different things can kick in. That stress reaction - you have cortisol might go up, your heart rate might go up, your breathing might change, you might start to sweat, get anxious. And then the problem is that on a long-term level, those reactions can lead to long-term chronic health problems. There again, also a difference between your individual health and then, you know, here we are talking actually about public health. So, as a population we have to make decisions about how we regulate noise for the population as a whole. And then as individuals, unique people can make their own decisions about how they manage their own personal responses. You could have a bunch of people who have a really strong reaction and a bunch of people who have a really weak reaction and then the average on the population level is that there's no problem, but we do care about the problematic reactions that people have to noises that we can manage.




JARED BLUMENFELD: Back to our conversation with June Weintraub and Jonathan Piakis. So, Jonathan, when people phone up and they have a particular problem, nine cats in the house next door, what do you tell people to do?


JONATHAN PIAKIS: Right. So, there's a number of those where we have no regulatory authority. We do try to play, kind of go-between, between the two parties, and just try to get them to communicate together. A lot of the times, the people that call, won't have had any contact with the person. We would be their first contact that they're letting anyone know about. So, we try and bring the two parties together, and if it's something that is kind of ridiculous, we can talk to them. And then most people are pretty reasonable. Of course, there's always times that we can't do that and there's just no cooperation between the two parties. Sometimes we do refer cases over to a third-party mediator. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: What about like physical things that people can do, like double glaze windows or noise canceling headphones? 


JONATHAN PIAKIS: I will try and at least point people in the right directions. In the new residential buildings, they have hardwood floors and you

know, it's a very clean look. Everything is nice and neat and reflective surfaces and everything and that does create more noise. So, I always tell people there's always something you can do to reduce the noise, but cost is obviously an issue. Feasibility is obviously an issue. If it was as easy as let's just acoustically insolate this building, that would be amazing. Sign me up for that. But that's not always feasible. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: Are there any building standards that relate to noise so that when you're building a new building - next to a freeway for instance - that they do have to have certain requirements to prevent you from getting all the ambient noise?


JONATHAN PIAKIS: So that magical number of 45 is what we like to see inside. So, they're required to do acoustical studies based on what the ambient is outside, and then build the buildings such that all of that noise inside would not be more than 45 decibels on the inside. Very, very difficult to enforce, so the only way to really do it in a jurisdiction, in a county, in a city is with a team approach from a number of different agencies. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: What does 45 mean? How did you come up with that scientifically? 


JONATHAN PIAKIS: Those noise limits, in our noise ordinance, is based on the World Health Organization's recommendations. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: So, these folks, they're being exposed to sound higher than that World Health Organization level. Like how do you contextualize that for people who call in from that neighborhood?


JONATHAN PIAKIS:  Yeah, it's definitely an issue. One of the big things with, with noise is we've taken actually from the occupational setting. So being an industrial hygienist, we are mostly normally concerned with occupational health. So how much does it work or being exposed to during the day? We've actually, the whole noise community I think in the United States, has kind of taken that idea of a daily dose and applied it just to outside of the workplace. So, it might be as you're walking to work, you're being exposed to more noise just because the ambient noise is higher, but the reality is, I think the estimation is, we spend somewhere between 10 and 13 hours just in our residence whether it's sleeping or just watching tv and everything like that. So, if we can make sure that those noise levels are cut down, we take that whole daily dose of noise and reduce it to hopefully reduce any health impacts that would come from that. 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: Some of these consultants will do something like measure the sound in the mission on a Cinco de Mayo at 11:00 AM and that's going to be a really noisy day. But it can be useful for them to establish the ambient as higher, because then it sets them up for maybe not having to be responsible when sounds are high later. 


JARED BLUMENFELD:  Isn't that cheating? 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: We try to pay special attention to that and call that out when we see it. 


JONATHAN PIAKIS: And sometimes, if we will issue a notice, a violation, and it's nowhere even close to the limit, our recommendation, because we can't require it, but our recommendation is to reach out to the experts and they're great with designs of noise abatement, features, everything. They can, they can tell you exactly what to do to get you below the limit. 


JARED BLUMENFELD:  Fleet Week is a military parade over our city with very, very loud jets that shake the house. How do you get sound to a level that it is reasonable? 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: This comes back to kind of setting the expectations of the community. 


JARED BLUMENFELD:  With Fleet Week, there's also a vibrational, so it's so loud that it vibrates the house. 

JONATHAN PIAKIS: Vibration is tough. It's even, I think more, more difficult than the noise to enforce it. It's kind of one of those things when you sign on for having the blue angels that at the event, you're kind of just accepting, and kind of know that it's going to happen and there's not much you can do about it. I think the number of people that are out there and enjoying it probably outweighs the number of complaints. So that's something that probably goes way above us in determining how they do that. 


JARED BLUMENFELD:  Are you guys brought in to help the board of supervisors make noise pollution decisions? 


JONATHAN PIAKIS: Yes, all the time. And now unfortunately, I feel like we're kind of always like the naysayers. We’re always saying that sounds like a terrible idea because that's going to create a lot of noise issues. And we unfortunately have to say that a lot.


JARED BLUMENFELD:  It seems like noise pollution gets pretty short shrift. If someone's polluting San Francisco Bay or even the Pacific, we are rightly up in arms, but very few seemed concerned about the health impacts noise has on our city residents. 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: That is an excellent point. It comes back to that social question, that one person's noise is another person's, you know, music. 

JARED BLUMENFELD:  But June, that isn't true. After a certain level at 110 decibels, that isn't true. That isn't like a taste issue. Like 110 decibels is bad for everyone. 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: We have all of this nice clarity about what we can impose and enforce, but truly 110 decibels for a split second, that's not going to cause hearing damage. Again, you know, it might give me a cortisol boost. My own personal experience with the blue angels is that it comes as a surprise. I’m never tuned into the fact that today is blue angels day and I'll be here in my office and suddenly there's this giant sound and a bunch of car alarms go off and the vibration, and it's actually scary. I did have the chance to go out on the water and watch the blue angels last year. I knew when they were coming, and they were still the same loudness, but it did not inspire the same biochemical reaction. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: So, June, let's just say hypothetically San Francisco continues on the noise trajectory that it's on and we get to a place where we're at 91 decibels. So above what Osha says it should be like, hat interventions would you need to put in place? 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: So that is the idea behind the noise ordinance with the intention to make sure that new things happening didn't put us on the path to a noisier city, but rather put us on a path to a quieter city. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: When you look at that significant difference between ambient noise in one neighborhood and another, is there anything in particular? 


JONATHAN PIAKIS: Construction is an issue because we have so much development in that part, but that is also a temporary thing. It's. It's going to temporarily raise the ambient and the overall noise level in the in the area, but that will eventually be done. You might have one street of Soma being very, very loud and then two streets away, it's actually pretty quiet. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: It'd be cool to, now that June was saying that you can monitor decibel levels on your iPhone, it'd be cool to get a crowd source map that citizens could use. 


JONATHAN PIAKIS: It's definitely something that we would look into it. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: I worry that we're becoming an increasingly noisy city. Do you guys share that concern? 


JUNE WEINTRAUB: I've been in some really noisy cities before and found it to be overwhelming. I think people who live in those environments get used to it and don't necessarily even realize that it might be having a detrimental effect on their health. I think a big part of what we do here in the health department is actually just help people come to peace with their environment, figuring out how to get along with their neighbor. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: People are really excited about energy efficiency or electric vehicles or you know, all these other technologies. I don't hear a lot of excited people talking about, wow, there's incredible noise reduction technologies for cities. Like I've never even seen an article about it. 


JONATHAN PIAKIS: How do you make noise reduction sexy again, you know, or, I don't think it ever has been. But, how can we do that? And what happens from that is a health benefit. That's a challenge. It's something we're kind of looking forward to tackling in the future and are also here asking for a bunch of help. So, I guess stay tuned on that. We're going to try and make noise reduction sexy again, I guess.      


JARED BLUMENFELD: Thanks to June Weintraub and Jonathan Piakis to spending the time with us today and for talking through both the challenges and opportunities for noise reduction strategies. The day I spent recording sounds around San Francisco left me with a migraine. I truly hope this podcast didn't do the same for you. As much as I thought I could tune out noise pollution, I now find the opposite is true. I've now become alert to each and every noise around me. And you know what? They never seemed to end. This whole issue has really made me yearn deeply for being back in nature where they're often loud sounds, but they're not mechanical. One big takeaway is that if you live in a community that currently only allows construction for five or six days a week, don't let the city council increase it to six or seven. And let's follow the lead of Carmel, California, who in 1975 banned leaf blowers. More than 400 cities have since joined in keeping the peace by bringing back the simple rake and banning leaf blowers in their community. Even Los Angeles has banned leaf blowers within 500 feet of people's homes. It's time for San Francisco and your city to do the same. Other new technologies can also significantly reduce noise. Quiet asphalt pavement can reduce highway noise pollution by as much as seven decibels. Today, more than 200 miles of freeways in metro Phoenix have been paved with the rubberized asphalt. Residents near freeways commented on being able to actually hold conversations without shouting. Noise pollution is the final frontier for the environmental movement, which has ignored the health and community impacts of this blight for way too long.  Next week, I go and search of peace and salmon on a fishing boat in the Pacific. Please like our show on the Apple Podship Earth page. Thank you so much for being part of the Podship Earth journey. A special thanks this week to sound engineer, Rob Spate, for having to link together all of my recordings. Thanks also to producer Nancy Ferranti, executive producer David Kahn, and from me, Jared Blumenfeld, have a very quiet week.

bottom of page