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“Standard Noise Level & Pollution in Textile Industry and Environment”— An overlooked issue

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Engr. Zahedul Huque

B.Sc in Textile Technology (Butex)

Asst. General Manager, Esquire Group (Textile Division)

Before the liberation war, East Pakistan textile sector was basically a part of the process like “Import Substitution Industrialization” which we call usually ISI .It is to replace only our imports. After the liberation war, Bangladesh adopted completely a different concept termed as Export-Oriented industrialization (EOI) by focusing on the textile and clothing industry, particularly the readymade garment (RMG) sector. Since then we started our textile journey for exporting though which level is too low initially, even in 1978, there were only nine “export-oriented” garment manufacturing units. That same year the first direct export of garments, 10,000 pcs shirts only so far.

In courses of time, our export getting bigger and bigger –especially our RMG sector and right now we are the 2nd largest Gmts exporter in the world after China. Though there is a big gap in between China and Bangladesh regarding yearly exporting  turn over in garment sector but we could stand our country  in a good position crossing some other  neighborhood countries and worldwide as well.

While the textile industrialization getting bigger, then it also talking about organizational health and safety issue for the workers. In a textile industry as well as garments –there are lot of operations which involved with health risk and need a good safety environment for workers. I would like to talk about today the “Standard Noise level &Pollution in the textile Industry and Environment” which is being a bit over looked by buyers and owners but the issue is burning.

“Noise induced hearing loss” (NIHL)- NIHL has recently become one of the biggest occupational disease risks and occupational NIHL contributing to 16% of global deafness and it is the real fact. So we can realize noise in textile industry and garment cannot be overlooked as well as in our country environment and it is deeply related with a big compliant issue from buyer point of view. Of late, it is strictly controlled by the buyers so far as a part of OHS. Actually what is the noise level—-In atmospheric sounding and noise pollution, ambient noise level (sometimes called background noise level, reference sound level, or room noise level) is the background sound pressure level at a given location, normally specified as a reference level to study a new intrusive sound source.

What should be the acceptable noise level in the workplace like textile industry— The decibel (dB) level acceptable under ILO and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of USA for an eight-hour day cannot exceed 85-90 dB; for six hours the limit is 92 dB; for four hours the maximum limit is 95 dB; for three hours the limit is 97 dB; for two hours 100 dB; for one and a half hours 102 dB and for one hour 105 dB.

The decibel (abbreviated dB) is the unit used to measure the intensity of a sound. The decibel scale is a little odd because the human ear is incredibly sensitive. … On the decibel scale, the smallest audible sound (near total silence) is 0 dB. A sound 10 times more powerful is 10 dB. Different types of noise that affects us all.

1) Continuous Noise.

2) Intermittent Noise.

3) Impulsive Noise.

4) Low Frequency Noise.

How does noise affect – WHO has described noise pollution as an underestimated threat that can cause hearing loss, cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairment, stress and depression. Noise pollution can affect people in several ways, some of which are listed below:

HEARING LOSS: Exposure to noise can damage our hearing. Hearing impairment due to noise pollution can either be temporary or permanent. Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB produces damaging effects on the ear.

When ear is exposed to extreme loud noise (above 100dB) for a considerable period of time, it can cause irreparable damage to our ear. These sounds can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which can be immediate or it can take a long time to be evident. But the louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL to happen. It can be temporary or permanent and it can affect one ear or the both. In this case, victims are usually unable to understand when they talk to each other — especially over the phone or in a noisy environment.

POOR COGNITIVE OUTCOME: Regular experience of loud noise significantly over the time decreases the ability to read, learn and understand. Problem solving competencies and the ability to memorise may also decline due to frequent bombardment of noise. Noise pollution can also increase the margin of error that hampers our productivity at office.

In our everyday life, cognitive tasks are often performed in the presence of task-irrelevant environmental noise. Research has proved that children studying in noisy environment tend to show relatively low cognitive function. In healthy adults, environmental noise adversely affects many cognitive domains.

CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: A noisy environment can be a great source of heart-related problems. A recent study shows that high intensity of sound causes a dramatic rise to blood pressure as noise levels constrict the arteries. With this, disruption of blood flow and number of heart beats per minute also increase. The study also reveals that the heart rate of the people who live in a noisy environment is greater than the people who are living in a less noisy environment. These sudden abnormal changes in blood increase the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases in the long run.

SLEEP DISTURBANCES: Both the developed and developing countries are gradually becoming noisier places. But sleep is an essential part of human life, development and well-being. Sleeping difficulty due to exposure to high decibel noise can deter our overall well-being and hence, noise pollution has been described as the ‘modern unseen plague.’

Noise can interrupt a good night’s sound sleep. When it occurs, the person feels extremely annoyed and uncomfortable. Those who cannot enjoy sound sleep show a sharp dip in their energy levels, which often results in extreme fatigue. This can considerably decrease a person’s ability to work efficiently.

TROUBLE IN COMMUNICATING: Noise can be external or internal and it can interrupt the communication process at any point. But verbal communication is absolutely necessary for workplace communication. A noisy environment that produces more than 50-60 dB simply does not allow two people to communicate properly. Interpreting the speech of a second person becomes quite difficult and may lead to misunderstanding.

VARIOUS OTHER PHYSICAL OR MENTAL LOSSES: Exposure to loud sound can lead to stimulate violent behaviour. Continuous noise in the vicinity can also trigger headaches; make people tense and anxious and disturb emotional balance. Sound pollution is likely to distort the natural tempo of our speech. People may experience difficulty while speaking. Generally, explosive sound, produced by vehicular traffic and aeroplanes, tends to produce such problems.

ANNOYANCE: Sound pollution is one of the reasons of annoyance. Excessive sound pollution makes people irritated; they feel some sort of unnaturalness and excitement, which is marked in their behaviour. A nervous sort of a man, of course, is by nature more prone to such discomfiture and discomfort.

GETTING TIRED AND EXHAUSTED: Sound pollution makes people tired and exhausted. People usually engage in different types of profession. But those engaged in different jobs suffer from exhaustion or apathy in work and such tendencies gradually put strain on their efficiency.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH HAZARD: Occupational health hazard has become one of the most significant issues of modern industrial workplace. A recent study reveals that millions of workers around the world are exposed every year to noise levels that put their hearing at risk.Workers of several professions face more or less noise hazards every day, but ready-made garments (RMG) industry workers are the worst sufferers. A sustainable noise management system is urgently needed for implementing the core concept of occupational health and safety in workplaces.The hazards of noise are dose-related. The higher the dose of noise a worker receives, the greater the risk to the worker’s hearing. A worker’s noise dose is dependent on the following three factors:

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Photo: Esquire Group (Textile Division) a leading knit composite plant at Kanchpur, Narayangonj Zone.

Intensity/loudness: As per the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 60dB is for normal conversation; maximum 85 dB is recommended for eight hours in a working day.

Frequency: Frequencies between 3000-4000 Hz are most likely to damage human hearing.

Duration: The length of time one is exposed to noise.

How do you measure Noise Level —The energy in a sound wave can be measured using Decibels. The Decibel Meter shows examples of things that make noise and measurements in decibels. Amplitude measures how forceful the wave is. It is measured in decibels or dBA of sound pressure.

Here given 5 tips to reduce noise in textile industry:

1) Use hearing protection, It is important to use hearing protection as it lowers the amount of noise your ears are exposed to. Hearing protection should be provided for you if you work in an environment where noise levels reach 80dB. It can be difficult to remember to put on your hearing protection. If this is an issue at your workplace, you can look at this solution.

2) Do not operate noisy machinery longer than recommended, Stick to the guidelines provided by the manufacturers regarding noise levels and operating time

3) Measure and map noise, Find out when and where noise is an issue, using noise level meters. Use the noise meters to measure and map noise for an extended period of time to create awareness about noise at work.

4) Move noisy tasks, Use different areas of the workplace for different tasks and move the most noisy tasks away from the main work area, if possible.

5) Isolate noise, to isolate noise at the workplace, you can move noisy equipment to a soundproofed room or use shielding around the source of noise.

The employer is obligated to ensure that you comply with noise level regulations. So, apart from following these 5 tips, you can also talk to your employer about how to reduce noise at your workplace.

Different countries have adopted a range of policies and regulations for noise control: A number of these are outlined in this section as examples.

Australia: In Australia, the responsibility for noise control is shared primarily by state and local governments. There are nationally-agreed regulatory standards for airport planning and new vehicle noise emissions. The Australian Noise Exposure Forecast (ANEF) index is used to describe how much aircraft noise is received at locations around an airport (DoTRS 1999). Around all airports, planning controls restrict the construction of dwellings within the 25 ANEF exposure contour and require sound insulation for those within 20 ANEF. Road traffic noise limits are set by state governments, but vary considerably in both the exposure metric and in maximum allowable levels. New vehicles are required to comply with stringent design rules for noise and air emissions. For example, new regulation in New South Wales adopts LAeq as the metric and sets noise limits of 60 dBA for daytime, and 55 dBA for night-time, along new roads. Local governments set regulations restricting noise emissions for household equipment, such as air conditioners, and the hours of use for noisy machines such as lawn mowers.

Europe: In Europe, noise legislation is not generally enforced. As a result, environmental noise levels are often higher than the legislated noise limits. Moreover, there is a gap between long-term political goals and what represents a “good acoustical environment”. One reason for this gap is that noise pollution is most commonly regulated only for new land use or for the development of transportation systems, whereas enlargements at existing localities may be approved even though noise limits or guideline values are already surpassed (Gottlob 1995). A comprehensive overview of the noise situation in Europe is given in the Green Paper (EU 1996b), which was established to give noise abatement a higher priority in policy making. The Green Paper outlines a new framework for noise policy in Europe with the following options for future action:

  1. Harmonizing the methods for assessing noise exposure, and encouraging the exchange of information among member states.
  2. Establishing plans to reduce road traffic noise by applying newer technologies and fiscal instruments.
  3. Paying more attention to railway noise in view of the future extension of rail networks.
  4. Introducing more stringent regulation on air transport and using economic instruments to encourage compliance.
  5. Simplifying the existing seven regulations on outdoor equipment by proposing a Framework Directive that covers a wider range of equipment, including construction machines and others.

Pakistan: In Pakistan, the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for the control of air pollution nationwide. However, only recently have controls been enforced in Sindh in an attempt to rise public awareness and carry out administrative control on road vehicles producing noise (Zaidi, personal communication).

Argentina: In Argentina, a national law recently limited the daily 8-hrs exposure to industrial noise to 80 dB, and it has had beneficial effects on hearing impairment and other hearing disorders among workers. In general, industry has responded by introducing constant controls on noise sources, combined with hearing tests and medical follow-ups for workers. Factory owners have recruited permanent health and safety engineers who control noise, supply advice on how to make further improvements, and routinely assess excessive noise levels. The engineers also provide education in personal protection and in the correct use of ear plugs, mufflers etc.

At the municipal level two types of noise have been considered.  Unnecessary noise, which is forbidden; and excessive noise, which is defined for neighborhood activities (zones), and for which both day and night-time maximum limits have been introduced. The results have been relatively successful in mitigating unwanted noise effects. At the provincial level, similar results have been accomplished for many cities in Argentina and Latin America.

Thailand: In 1996, noise pollution regulations in Thailand stipulated that not more than 70 dBA LAeq,24h should be allowed in residential areas, and the maximum level of noise in industry should be no more than 85 dBA Leq 8h (Prasansuk 1997).

United States of America. Environmental noise was not addressed as a national policy issue in the USA until the implementation of the Noise Control Act of 1972. This congressional act directed the US Environmental Protection Agency to publish scientific information about noise exposure and its effects, and to identify acceptable levels of noise exposure under various conditions. The Noise Control Act was supposed to protect the public health and well-being with an adequate margin of safety. This was accomplished in 1974 with the publication of the US EPA “Levels Document” (US EPA 1974). It addressed issues such as the use of sound descriptions to describe sound exposure, the identification of the most important human effects resulting from noise exposure, and the specification of noise exposure criteria for various effects. Subsequent to the publication of the US EPA “Levels Document”, guidelines for conducting environmental impact analysis were developed (Finegold et al. 1998). The day-night average sound level was thus established as the predominant sound descriptor for most environmental noise exposure.

It is evident from these examples that noise policies and regulations vary considerably across countries and regions. Moves towards global noise policies need to be encouraged to ensure that the world population gains the maximum health benefits from new developments in noise control.

Here, in Bangladesh, the Noise Pollution (Control) Rules 2006 says that the acceptable sound limit in the silent areas is 50 dB for the daytime and 40dB for night; in residential areas 55dB for day and 45dB for night; in the mixed areas 60dB for day and 50dB for night; in commercial areas 70dB for day and 60dB for night; and in the industrial areas 75dB for day and 70dB for night. The guidelines say exceeding the maximum noise level in certain areas is a punishable offence.

Studies show that at least 45 areas in Dhaka city are extremely polluted by noise. According to a recent study, the average sound level is 80-110dB in Dhaka’s prime areas like Farmgate, Karwan Bazar, Shahbagh, Gabtoli and Mohakhali Bus Terminal.

According to a 2017 study by the Department of Environment (DoE), sound levels at all the divisional headquarters are far beyond the acceptable limit for human ears. The survey was conducted at 70 points of Dhaka city and recorded sound level reached up to 120-130dB at many points.

This study revealed that around 11.7 per cent of the population of the country had lost their hearing due to noise pollution. According to the report, the noise level was above 120dB during the daytime at Gabtoli, Arambagh intersection, Gulshan-2 intersection, Gulistan intersection, Mirpur 10 intersection, Banglamotor, New Market, Mascot Plaza of Uttara, Jagannath University and other areas. Among the 70 points, the lowest sound level was recorded 99.6dB during the daytime and 43.7dB at night at Road-18 of Uttara-14. The highest noise level recorded at Farmgate was 130.2dB during the daytime and the lowest 65.7dB at night. It also found that 500-1,000 vehicles in Dhaka sound the horn at the same time even when they are stuck in traffic.

Final words:

Bangladesh has, over the last 40 years, seen a significant growth in the textile manufacturing & Export. Almost 80% of foreign currency coming from garments exporting and 4 million people are involved directly in the sector. The increase in manufacturing has led to an increased exposure to high levels of noise and has contributed to increase NIHL among textile workers. Again, Garment workers in Bangladesh face noise levels of 96-100 Decibels which is a significant contributor to NIHL among women textile workers . So it is the right time to take pragmatic steps to reduce noise pollution in the industries and country as well. Already some of the textile industries made their position far better than even abroad and present government is taking some stern action as well as arranging awareness seminars/meeting on this issue. Students from universities and some of the organizations members demonstrate against noise pollution, arranging rally and so on. But the precondition to reduce noise pollution in a minimum level is public awareness and commitment, simultaneously government has to be taken logical & customized noise management policy studying & analyzing other countries policies in the world.

We are hoping the day is not so far when garment workers feel home like calm and cool environment in the textile industries and buyer would be more fascinated to see our textile industry environment—“Noise free smarter” and finally people of the country live in a noise free environment at home& abroad—enjoying “A sound sleep”—which is much more precious than anything.

Ref: BD News24.com, Dhaka Tribune & Internet.