Opinion: Noise pollution

POSTED: 02/28/14 11:14 PM

Getting agitated because of noise pollution is one thing, sustaining damages to your ears because of music that is way too loud quite another. This topic returns to the public each year by the time carnival rolls around. In St. Maarten, the festivities have started on the French side and they will pick up on the Dutch side in April. In Aruba, the party is already in full swing.

Organizers always refer confidently to the fact that they make ear plugs available so that little kids do not get their ear drums blown when they watch a parade together with their parents.

Nobody knows how many parents are using this protective gear for their kids (or for themselves), but even so, by distributing earplugs the organizers that cause the problem in the first place, place the burden for the solution squarely on the shoulders of their audience. The alternative – turning down the volume to acceptable levels – is apparently not an option for carnival organizers. That’s what we call a completely irresponsible attitude.

In Aruba sound technician Ishwar Daryanani has gone to war with carnival-related sound terrorism. A commendable initiative. During the recent Lighting Parade Daryanani measured 115 decibel with the Upgrade Band and 93 decibel – the lowest measured value – with the Dushi Band.

People who are exposed for longer than one minute to these sound levels will sustain hearing damage and risk becoming deaf. Public health and safety cannot be guaranteed under these circumstances, the sound technician warns.

Of course, carnival organizers are already deaf to begin with so Daryanani’s warning are literally falling on deaf ears. The show must go on, carnival must be as noisy as possible and public health concerns be damned.

Daryanani submitted a report to the parliament in Aruba with the telling title “Sound and noise in Aruba 2014 – the art of sound hearing is not listening.”

The maximum safe sound level for the human ear is 85 decibel, according to Daryanani. During all Parades where the technician measured the noise surpassed this level.

So what to do if the organizers of carnival refuse to listen? Daryanani suggests a large-scale information campaign to make people aware of the situations that could lead to hearing damage or deafness.

Evelyn Wever-Croes, faction leader of the MEP, attended Daryanani’s presentation and said that she wants to make the case for the implementation of a law that regulates limits for sound levels. Aruba’s current Disturbing Noises Ordinance does not contain concrete limits in decibels.

Police commissioner Trudy Hassell said in January that the police would act against too many decibels and that the police would measure sound levels of the bands during carnival. If the sound is too loud and the band does not adjust, it would be fined.

Amigoe asked the police whether it has already issued fines, but it did not receive a reaction yet.

There is still plenty of time for St. Maarten to get its ducks in a row for the upcoming carnival. One could attempt to bring organizers and bands to their senses with a polite request to tone it down to 85 decibel – but we have little confidence that such a request would be honored.

Parliament has never even bothered to look into this matter, even though exposure to loud music could damage people’s hearing and even though this would result in a burden in the healthcare system. Apparently, the show must go on – until St. Maarten’s own Daryanani steps up to the plate and presents some hard facts about all this noise pollution.

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