Noise, A Dangerous Pollutant

The etiology of disease can be exacerbated and sustained by certain environmental variables. The interaction between human beings and their environment is an integral part of health and well-being. The aspect of public health that is connected with environmental health focuses on the assessment and understanding of the impact of the environment on the well-being of human beings as well as the impact of the actions of human beings on the environment. Environmentalists have divided the environment into two: the environment within the body and the one found outside the body (ambient). One of the threats to health which occurs in the ambient environment is noise.

Noise invades our lives in various forms such as the rumble of an approaching train, the thrum of heavy traffic, the roar of airplanes or even the hum of street sweep as well as neighbors yelling at ornery children and spouses. Usually we are subjected to an occasional scream of a malfunctioning car alarm or the wail of an ambulance on its way to a life-saving assignment. As such, most of our exposure to noise is beyond our control (although there are times when we can initiate it ourselves). For instance, noise can emanate from a neighbor’s lawn mower, house alarm, snow blower, parties, weddings, loud speakers and many others. In our homes, we are exposed to noise from the television, radio, telephone, stereos and many other devices, according to Goines & Hagler (2007). Noise pollution is likely to continue growing in magnitude as well as in severity because of increase in urbanization, population growth, highway, rail and sustained air traffic expansion. Further, there seems to be an emerging new culture with an uncanny or mysterious tolerance for noise, which seems to imply that in order to be heard, it is cool to be loud. The amplified car stereo industry and the modified muffler industry constitute the top two chief noise-making culprits of modern times. Private cars that have amplified stereo systems emit about 120 decibels of sound, which is equivalent to sandblasting. Under normal circumstances levels of noise should not exceed 80 decibels. Regardless of how noise penetrates our lives, it can have adverse effects to our health. Increased noise levels can be pathogenic. For example, noise has causal effects for cardiovascular disease, which can rob individuals of years of a healthy life. The World Health Organization claims that exposure to excessive and incessant traffic noise was implicated in the deaths of about 3 percent of people in Europe who had ischemic heart disease. The noise threshold associated with cardiovascular disorders was identified to be exposure to at least 50 A-weighted decibels. Although daytime exposure to noise was also associated with heart problems, the risk was greater for night time exposure. Reports from the National Center for Health Statistics’ Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicate that over 5 million Americans aged 6-19 suffer from some form of impaired hearing resulting from exposure to noise. Further, about 30 million people in the United States are exposed to dangerous levels of noise at their places of work.

Susan Muto aptly observes that “In a noise polluted world, it is even difficult to hear ourselves think let alone try to be still and know God.” But we must pursue silence, sometimes, and make it our friend so that it can serve as fertile ground for finding intimacy with our God. The Bible says “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10). Learn more about this from: http://youtu.be/9TOcHIb8N5k

A Moldy Threat to Health

Statistics from 2007 studies conducted at Berkeley reveal that about 21.8 million individuals have asthma in the United States. The pathogenesis of 4.6 million of these cases has been attributed to exposure to indoor dampness and mold. Overall, approximately 30 to 50% of asthma-related health problems are linked to building dampness and mold. The cost for treatment of indoor mold-related asthmatic problems was estimated to be $3.5 billion. The World Health Organization claims that about 1.5 million deaths worldwide each year are linked to indoor air pollution of some sort.

The main element of indoor air pollution is microbial pollution caused by a myriad species of both bacteria and filamentous fungi also known as mold which grows in moist and damp places. Mold was discovered by William Yobe in 1827. The Institute of Medicine has linked exposure to mold to upper respiratory tract problems. Certain types of toxic mold such as aspergillus, fumigatus and histoplasma can cause severe infections in vulnerable individuals with compromised immune systems. A product of mold is mycotoxins. People are often exposed to mycotoxins by ingesting contaminated food, by skin contact or by inhaling these toxins. If exposure to mycotoxins is protracted and unmitigated, the results can be serious adverse health outcomes. Clinical effects resulting from exposure to mycotoxin fumonisins include pulmonary edema, esophageal cancer and many others. Mycotoxin ochratoxins can cause kidney and liver damage over a long period of time. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an immune-mediated health condition can also be exacerbated by exposure to mold.

What is astonishing is that millennia before Yobe’s time the Bible already had cautionary counsel against exposure to mold and fungi. Although the process for remediation of mold infestation has improved in modern times due to technological advancement the approach remains largely the same as the biblical one. Buildings with serious mold infestation often need to be vacated. Recently, in 2002, a South Atlanta apartment complex showed “a serious mold problem” in at least 37 of its 119 units. This necessitated evacuation of dozens of families from the apartments and the property manager and complex owners ended up with numerous compensatory claims from residents exposed to the mold. In Leviticus 14:34-39 the Bible says “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your possession, and [there is] a spreading mildew in a house in that land, the owner of the house must go and tell the priest, ‘I have seen something that looks like mildew in my house.’ The priest is to order the house to be emptied before he goes in to examine the mildew, so that nothing in the house will be pronounced unclean.” The Bible is an amazing repository of health guidelines. Learn More at: http://youtu.be/9TOcHIb8N5k