Why So Noisy? Noise Pollution Takes Toll in Vietnam


While many have talked about air pollution and its risks to human health, the ramifications of noise pollution in Vietnam’s big cities is usually underestimated.

A study released July 20 by the Ministry of Health’s Institute of Occupational Health and Environment found that between 10 and15 million out of the 52 million people working in Vietnam are exposed to excessive noise.

VnExpress quoted the report, saying noise levels on 12 major streets and junctions in Hanoi were measured between 77.8 and 78.1 decibels during the day, way beyond the safe level of 70.

noise pollutionImage source: gib.com.vn

The report goes on, asserting that the average noise level of Hanoi at night is between 65.3 and 75.7 decibels, higher than the safe level of 55.

In Ho Chi Minh City, 8 out of 14 spots with noise detectors also violated acceptable levels, according to measurements recorded in June.

In industrial zones the problem is even worse, the report states.

Contributing Factors

Scientists believe the main factor at play in Vietnam's high level of noise is traffic. There are around 7.5 million motorbikes in HCMC, Vietnam's most densely populated city with a population of 12 million. Hanoi ranks second with around six million motorbikes.

The sounds of motorbikes, cars and honking, especially during rush hour, have become typical features of Vietnam’s big cities.

noise pollutionImage source: baoxaydung.com.vn

Vietnamese people have the habit of beeping horns often as they drive, although there are regulations on horn-honking.

The noise also comes from the increasing number of construction sites in the cities, a result of rapid urbanization.

Residents usually complain that fashion shops play music at high volumes, and neighbours sing karaoke loudly throughout the night.

Road users are sometimes frightened by the motorbikes that are revved up with modified, loud exhausts, which produce near-deafening sounds, done apparently only to attract more attention.

In residential areas, people with little awareness of public spaces turn on high-capacity speakers for weddings, parties and other large events, which can negatively affect residents in the neighbourhood.

Food sellers on the streets also contribute to the noise, though many tourists have said they like the sounds of street vendors, as they make Saigon and Hanoi special.

Health Effects

Doan Ngoc Hai, director of the Occupational Health and Environment Institute, said that noise pollution can have long-term effects, including hearing loss, sleeping disorders, high blood pressure for adults and cognitive impairment for children.

Although noise pollution is the second-most dangerous kind of pollution after air pollution, Doan complained that it receives little attention from companies and organizations.

noise pollutionImage source: thanhnien.vn

Up to 80 percent of companies in a recent survey do not have any solution for noise control, while they are aware that workers’ productivity decreases if they work in an excessively noisy environment.

Only 10 to 15 percent of the surveyed companies arrange hearing checkups for workers.

Doctor Le Cong Dinh of Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi told Ha Noi Moi newspaper that around 500 to 600 people come to the hospital every day for ear, nose and throat conditions, of whom 15 to 20 percent have hearing problems.

Nguyen Thi Quynh, a resident of Hanoi, told the newspaper her family members have sleeping disorders and her children are less focused due to excessive noise.

noise pollutionImage source: vietnamnet.vn

Stress, anger, headache and neurological disorders are also caused by noise pollution. There have been reports of murders on the streets following fights about honking or loud exhausts.

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