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By David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

If you’re shopping for a new house or apartment this weekend, you may not hear the usual weekday noise from airports or roadways that comes with the property.  Here in the USA, this is a case of “buyer beware,” because, unlike other countries, the USA does not–yet–officially recognize noise as a public health problem.  Air and vehicle traffic has become a source of loud and persistent noise in many communities around the country.  Citizens groups and members of Congress are concerned and trying to negotiate for quieter equipment and conditions to avoid adverse impacts on residential communities.

How can you learn if airplane or vehicular noise might be a problem in your community?  A new noise map just released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) shows “the levels of decibels people are exposed to from aviation and Interstate highways.”

As Drs. Fink and Banks reported in their earlier article, “Airplane Noise is a Health Hazard,” noise is not just annoying, it’s unhealthy.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has taken on the task of informing the public about the magnitude of the problem and common causes of noise-induced hearing loss and the importance of prevention in a recent issue of its Morbidity and Mortality report.  There is evidence that the real estate industry is also beginning to acknowledge that noise drives down property values.

In the end, it’s buyer beware, or as they say in Latin, “caveat emptor.”  It’s up to you to determine if transportation noise is a problem affecting your health and your property.