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  • Review Article
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Technology-forcing to reduce environmental noise pollution: a prospectus

Abstract

Background

Environmental movements of the late 20th century resulted in sweeping legislation and regulatory actions to reduce the prevalence of diverse pollutants. Although the consequences of noise pollution to public health, environment, and the economy have been recognized over the same time period, noise has received far less policy attention. Correspondingly, even while evidence of the diverse and detrimental effects of noise pollution on human health has grown, solutions and actual reductions in environmental noise remain seemingly out of reach.

Objective

To address this shortcoming, we developed a prospectus for environmental noise reduction through technology-forcing policies. Technology-forcing describes intent to encourage technological solutions for pollution control through policy and regulations, and has been a critical component of national and global progress in reducing environmental pollutants.

Methods

We take advantage of the unique policy history for noise in the United States - which initially enacted, but then abandoned federal noise regulation. We compare this history against outcomes from contemporaneous environmental legislation for air, water, and occupational pollution control, to demonstrate the potential for technology-forcing to reduce noise pollution. Our review then identifies promising solutions, in the form of existing technologies suitable for innovation and diffusion through technology-forcing regulations and incentives.

Results

Based on this review, we outline a program for noise policy development to support efforts to reduce environmental noise pollution worldwide. The proposed program consists of three steps, which are to (i) identify dominant sources of noise pollution, (ii) combine legislative or regulatory provisions with suitable systems of enforcement and incentives, and (iii) anticipate and prepare for stages of technological change.

Impact statement

Analysis of noise policy often focuses on justifying the need to reduce noise pollution. In this article, we demonstrate how technology-forcing regulations could also promote much-needed innovation and diffusion of technologies to reduce environmental noise pollution. We first establish the potential for technology-forcing by comparing technology outcomes from environmental legislation passed contemporaneously to the inactive US Noise Control Act. We next review promising innovations available for diffusion in multiple sectors to reduce environmental noise. Lastly, we recommend a program to support development of technology-forcing noise policies, to help ensure that the benefits of reduced noise pollution are distributed equitably.

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Data availability

All data used in this manuscript are publicly available, and appear as citations in the References.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful for efforts by airport noise program managers at Washington Metropolitan Airport Authority and Los Angeles World Airports to locate and share airport monitoring data. EH acknowledges funding support from the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation, and LMK acknowledges support for this work from the University of Washington Population Health Initiative.

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LMK, EH, and TME conceived and designed the work, acquired data, interpreted results, drafted and revised the manuscript. SJO assisted with manuscript development, interpreted results, assisted with drafting and revision, and approved the final manuscript. All authors are accountable for the accuracy and integrity of the work.

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Correspondence to Ed Habtour.

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Kuehne, L.M., Habtour, E., Echenagucia, T.M. et al. Technology-forcing to reduce environmental noise pollution: a prospectus. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-024-00679-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-024-00679-6

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