Noise pollution is a lot worse for you than you may have thought. According to the World Health Organization, it’s the second biggest environmental cause of health problems in humans after air pollution. Studies from 2012 suggested it contributed to 910,000 additional cases of hypertension across Europe every year and 10,000 premature deaths related to coronary heart diseases or strokes. Closer to home, a 15-year study found that there was a higher rate of cardiovascular and stroke-related deaths among those living near to the rabble of Heathrow—something residents are sure to cite in the wake of ministers approving a third runway there.
So why isn’t anyone talking about it?
“Noise is invisible,” says Poppy Szkiler of Quiet Mark. “I think that’s why the problems associated with it have been ignored, until now.”
Quiet Mark provide a universal stamp of approval for products and companies that recognize the importance of reducing their acoustic footprint. They were born out of the Noise Abatement Society, established in 1959 when John Connell—Szkiler’s grandfather—wrote an angry letter to the Daily Telegraph bemoaning the increasingly invasive levels of noise in the world around him.
He was flabbergasted by the response—”Sackfuls of letters in agreement,” says Poppy—and lobbied Parliament so hard for change that the Noise Abatement Act was passed in 1960. Ever since, the Noise Abatement Society and Quiet Mark have flown the flag for a quieter society. Last week saw the release of their crowdfunded film, In Pursuit of Silence, which examines the way excessive noise has slowly infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and why human lives depend on our ability to combat it.
“Noise abatement is a bit like smoking,” says Szkiler. “It’s a public health issue. One day people just realized you shouldn’t smoke inside buildings. I think we’ve coped with noise for such a long time, but people are starting to recognize the value of a quieter life.” As proof, she points to a partnership with John Lewis, which got involved with Quiet Mark after customer research suggested 65 percent of its customers craved more peace and quiet.