Noise Watch Plea to Initiate Review of Noise Policy & Regulation in Australia

TO: The Hon Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Health, October 28, 2013

Dear Minister Dutton,

A very serious, complex and urgent question. Would you please reverse the decision taken in December last year by the Hon Tanya Plibersek, to halt a proposed national survey and review by the National Health Protection Office, of noise regulation and policies across Australia? Unwanted, hazardous and poorly managed noise causes $billions of dollars in cost to business and our community annually. To the health system. I evidence this with reference from our own experience, and an Access Economics Report published in 2006: Listen Hear! The Economic Impact and Cost of Hearing Loss in Australia:

Minister Dutton, would you please reverse this decision and have the Office of Health Protection prioritise a National Noise policy review to reduce the complexity of responsibility for poorly managed noise, and highlight the cost of it all to our community and health care system. To begin to place some reduction on the impost that flows from regulators and courts, ignoring the stress noise causes in our community. To reduce the many health related complications and social conflicts associated with excessive uncontrolled noise, again, ignored by regulatory authorities failing to acknowledge any legal connection they have to see responsible health risk reduction in our living and working environments.

The matter of harm to health and well being from noise has been known since industrial times. I have extensive journal reference and found recently in a book published in 1968, Noise and Man, written by William Burns, a professor of physiology at the University of London, that summarised the extensive impact of noise on people in communities close to the many sources of noise in our busy world. The health risks impose cost to our health care system to the tune of $billions annually across Australia.

As a medical physiology researcher of many years, I reflect on the increased incidence of major organ weakness associated with chronic exposure to noise, particularly in the low frequency range. There is more energy associated with those frequencies. There is a significant effect on the immune system to chronic noise exposure. It causes the body to secrete neuropeptide Y, which then binds proteins that exist as part of our immune system, to respond to other disease threats we encounter. Without these proteins, excessive noise effectively neutralises our immune system and levels of resistance to health threats.

I contact you to elevate your interest in the science of noise, and to ask also for consideration for health research to confirm the connections unwanted noise has to health incidence in our community. Such research proposals have been thin on the ground in Australia, as it has been discouraged by key agents in our medical research funding area. We desperately need to take a more practical and responsible attitude to better management practices needed in all poorly managed noise exposure areas.

An undertaking was given in 2006 by the Labor Government to pursue a better understanding of how noise policies related to health risk, and incidence in both community and occupational settings. Sadly the urgency and huge cost was subsequently ignored by successive Labor Health Ministers. Decisions not to proceed with the evaluation were never made in public media announcements. The National Government narrowed its interest in health risks across Australia to just alcohol, tobacco and obesity. All elements of which avoid any departmental accountability. The community is desperate to find ways of reducing stressful elements in their lives. Sadly some of these lead to other unhealthy habits.

To go back to a starting point, the John Howard Liberal Government initiated a National Dept of Health review of the Health Effects of Noise (2004):$File/env_noise.pdf

This extensive document made four major recommendations:

    1. Recognise environmental noise as a potential health concern (with two suggested actions).
    2. Promote measures to reduce environmental noise and its health impacts (with seven suggested actions).
    3. Address environmental noise in planning and development activities (with four suggested actions).
    4. Foster research on the non-auditory health impacts of noise (with the following suggested research agenda:
      • A national noise survey.
      • Effects on learning performance in children, sleep disturbance, annoyance and cardiovascular health and mental wellbeing.
      • Identification of populations most sensitive to noise and vulnerable to non-auditory health effects (the findings should inform environmental, planning and health policies).
      • Given the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and its associated cost to society, further research appears prudent to examine noise as a risk factor (the link between environmental noise and high blood pressure(hypertension) and ischaemic heart disease, as suggested by cross-sectional literature, is by no means conclusive at the moment).
      • Evaluation of noise reduction schemes on community health (intervention studies).
      • Longitudinal studies, dose-response studies.
      • Appropriate attention to study design, sampling and sample sizes, control of confounders, investigation of factors modifying the effects, precise exposure estimation and precise measurement of outcomes.

I will attach for you, communications from us to enHealth in 2006, and then some later documents. I would welcome a call on aspects you might seek clarification on. I acknowledge you will need to be in touch with the Health Protection Office directly: Adrian White, Director Health Protection Policy Coordination Section, Office of Health Protection, Department of Health and Ageing (tel 02 6289 8604, mob 0408 295 868, [email protected]) has been involved in recent times.

I, and others in Noise Watch Australia, people who are part of the Waubra Foundation, concerned at the risks provoked by noise and vibration from industrial wind turbines, people living near airports and major roadways, would most appreciate your interest, and the elevation of national concern at the enormous community stress and cost noise is provoking in its impact on well being. It is being ignored by local and State regulatory authorities.

Sadly EPAs are ignoring low frequency noise and vibration in their undated noise policies. I have personal reference to the expansion of a sawmill at Kuitpo in South Australia. It was established decades after our residential home. Managers were able to shift significant noisy activities closer to our home in recent years. Go to multiple shifts. Not a word of communication. No planning decisions were ever made accessible to us. We suffered distraction, annoyance, vertigo and vomiting, as chronic noise exposure has endured regulation. With corrupt assessment by the EPA working with the licensee, and the local MtBarker Council unwilling to ensure planning compliance. We have been driven from our home, our rural horticulture and baking business. There are many stories of amazing situations permitted by planners, from people in apartments above commercial activities with noise and fumes flowing through their windows. Across Australia. We would greatly appreciate your attention and assistance in this urgent matter.

Best regards,

Gary Goland
Public Officer
Noise Watch Australia Inc.
29 Barry Rd
Oaklands Park
South Australia 5046
Ph (08) 8358 4320
Mob 0438 840 002 [email protected]

The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Health
Parliament Office
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Telephone: (02) 6277 7220
Fax: (02) 6273 4146
[email protected]

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