by Mary McQueen

September 8, 2009


Effects of Noise

Noise does not have to be loud enough to cause hearing loss to have detrimental effects on people, and even animals. The World Health Organization lists seven negative effects of noise:

(1) Hearing impairment,; (2) interference with spoken communication; (3) sleep disturbances; (4) cardiovascular disturbances’ 5) disturbances in mental health; (6) impaired task performance; and 7) negative social behavior and annoyance reactions.

The World Medical Association issued a statement on noise pollution in 1992 which was amended in 2007. It lists some of the same risks as the WHO. One point it makes is that “it is suspected that noise can primarily favor diseases in which stress plays a contributory role, such as cardiovascular diseases, which can then be manifested in the form of hypertension, myocardial infarction angina pectoris, or even apoplexy.”

According to a 1999 U.S. Census report, Americans name noise as the number one problem in neighborhoods. In many cities noise is the most frequent complaint made to police departments.

Broken Windows

Unfortunately, noise is considered by many police departments as being a nuisance crime and not worth the same effort as more serious crime. In the March 1982 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, political scientist James Wilson and criminologist George Kelling presented their Broken Windows thesis. They argued the best way to fight crime was to address the disorder that precedes it. That means that if disorderly behaviors such as vandalism, aggressive panhandling and prostitution are controlled, a significant drop in crime will follow. One of the cities to implement policing based in this theory was New York City. New York has seen a drop in overall crime as a result.

You are also probably aware that children who abuse animals sometimes grow up to be serial killers.

According to 2008 FBI crime statistics, Texarkana is the 24th highest crime-ridden metropolitan area in the country out of 338 metropolitan areas. Statistics were not available for 18 metro areas. You may take small comfort in the fact that three of the metro areas for which statistics were not available were the Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn area, and the Atlanta and Minneapolis metro areas. If they had been included, our rank would have obviously improved.

Creating excess noise is considered to be a misdemeanor. I don’t agree considering that people suffer permanent damage from noise, whether it be hearing impairment or cardiovascular damage. Noise violation is a gateway crime that if not addressed will lead to more serious crimes. Information from a number of jurisdictions in the U.S. indicates that up to 20 to 25 percent of all vehicles stopped for violating local noise ordinances turn up unlicensed and uninsured drivers, illegal weapons and drugs, and parole violators.

Status of Noise in Texarkana

When I moved back to Texarkana in January 1982, my street was very noisy. The police administration at the time didn’t seem to care about enforcing the noise ordinance. Now in September, 2009, it’s still noisy, though not quite as bad. Every few minutes, I have to hear a passing car stereo. I’ve had my sleep disrupted more times than I can remember. I have trouble concentrating because of the noise and consider it a miracle that I managed to get a master’s degree. It’s taken both a physical and mental toll.

The current police administration does what it can from what I can tell, but they lack the training and resources necessary to properly enforce the ordinance. I feel the penalties are much too lax. It time to do what some other cities are doing and impound vehicles. It’s been working quite well in Peoria, Illinois.

Tri State Iron and Metal, down the street from where I live, keeps up enough noise some days for me to hear inside my house all day. They received an exemption from the city to allow their noisy operations. It got worse when they bought their car crusher.

Then there are the train engines and whistles. There is a federal regulation outlining how long and in what pattern train whistles are to blow. It is routinely violated. Only the Federal Railroad Administration has enforcement authority over railroad noise.

The Arkansas side noise ordinance is sort of good. The Texas side ordinance is antiquated beyond belief. It still uses terms like “phonographs.” Who has a phonograph anymore? It has a provision against “hallooing” to attract attention to shows, sales, etc. I don’t remember being exposed to that term till I saw it in the ordinance. The ordinance makes reference to “old age or rest home.” The ordinance is vaguely written. Nowhere does it refer to decibel limits.

Noise Free Texarkana

On August 14, 2007, I had the first meeting of Noise Free Texarkana, a chapter of Noise Free America. March 11, 2008 was the last. The reason is lack of meaningful support. I was the only person doing anything, so there was no point in leaving my house to go to a meeting. There is still a chapter here. I’m it. I contact the police department, I write letters and emails to appropriate authorities. I stay in touch with the national director. My latest project has been encouraging people to sign a petition to bring back the Office of Noise Abatement and Control. It’s amazing how few people have signed considering it only takes a couple of minutes.

Petition to Bring Back the Office of Noise Abatement and Control

The Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC), a division of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was created to implement provisions of the Noise Control Act of 1972. The agency was tasked with coordinating federal research and activities, establishing noise emission standards for commercial products, educating the public, and providing support to communities.. The program was abolished during the Reagan Administration in 1981 due to pressure from industries affected by ONAC’s noise regulations. It was also part of Reagan’s push to deregulate the economy.

Noise is out of control and there are many of us across the country who would like to see the Office of Noise Abatement and Control reestablished. Noise Free America is one of the organizations which is gathering signatures to bring back the ONAC. A link to the petition can be found at