David M. Lipscomb PhD testimony on noise and human health

Dr. David M. Lipscomb PhD provided this testimony before the State of Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council involving the risks of noise emissions from then proposed Sumas Generating Plant on human health. An excerpt of the testimony is provided below. The full testimony can be downloaded by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

Q: Are you familiar with the effects of noise on public health?

Ans: Yes. In addition to my work with the U. S. EPA, I have attended and made presentations to numerous International Congresses on Noise as a Public Health Problem. They include 1968 (Washington, D.C.); 1973 (Dubrovnic, Yugoslavia); 1978 (Friburg, Germany) and 1982 (Turin,Italy). These were gatherings of active researchers on the topic from around the world. Proceedings of the Congresses were produced and are contained in my library.

Q: Could you describe some of these effects?

Ans: Yes. The effects include loss of sleep, hearing damage, irritability, exacerbation of nervous and cardiovascular disorders, and frustration stemming from loss of control of one's acoustical environment.

Q: Is a person able to control the physical reaction within their body to sound?

Ans: Only to a limited extent. Dr. Samuel Rosen, formerly physician at New York City's Mt. Sinai Hospital stated: "You may be able to ignore noise - but your body will never forgive you." The truth in this statement is that "coping" is a fatiguing activity. Therefore, the energy spent in coping with environmental noise or the frustrations it produces, is robbed from energy desired for other forms of activity.

Q: At what sound levels would you expect to see reactions of effects of noise?

Ans: Surprisingly small sound levels can cause certain reactions. For example, sleep studies have shown that subjects will shift two or three levels of sleep when the environmental sound is increased only 5 dB. Thus, a person in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM), the fifth stage of sleep, when the bedroom sound level is 35 dBA, will shift out of that essential level of sleep when the sound increases only to about 40 dBA. As a result, this negative health effect is known to lead to chronic fatigue and irritability.

Q: Could you please explain the effect of noise at night in residential areas?

Ans: Yes, recall that I mentioned low-frequency noise entering a house almost unimpeded. If that noise source is the predominant sound in a bedroom, any change in the sound level can influence a person's sleep level, therefore, reducing the adequacy of rest afforded by sleep.
Further, the noise source, if it is from the power generation plant, serves as a masking noise. That is, it covers up other sounds to which one may need to attend. For example, sounds from a child's bedroom.

Editor's note: notes that Dr. Lipscomb was one of the authors of the CANwea and American Wind Energy Association study that concluded there isĀ "nothing unique" about the noise or vibrations emitted by wind turbines and no evidence that the audible or sub-audible sounds have any direct adverse effect on health. The study went on to state that those who are bothered by turbines simply have a lower tolerance for annoying sounds of all sorts.

Lipscomb June2000

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JUN 26 2000
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