Unhealthy noise

Urban noise nuisances and related matters between 1856 and 1939, as described in Medical Office of Health reports compiled by the Wellcome Library for their London's Pulse project.

  • Among the many subjects which have occupied the Board’s attention, although, perhaps, more of a local than a general character, may be mentioned the Bridges carrying Railways over Roads in the District, particularly two in Lewisham. The noise occasioned by passing trains has, upon several occasions, alarmed horses, and accidents have occurred in consequence. ‑ Lewisham 1881
  • The mother was soliciting money from passers-by. The father was playing a combination slum orchestra which included a violin, Pan’s pipes, drum, a triangle, and cymbals. Lowest in the scale are fathers who “work pitches” outside public houses for a living, organ grinders, and those who “go busking” or singing to theatre queues. ‑ Finsbury 1914
  • The open spaces devoted to railway purposes are bare of vegetation and from them proceed the smoke of railway engines, the clanking of shunting trucks, the rumbling of trains, the explosions of fog signals, shrill whistlings, and other disturbances of matter immensely conducive to the activities of the nation, but not to the health of the people immediately surrounding. ‑ St Pancras 1904
  • No person shall, in connection with any show, roundabout, exhibition, or performance held or placed on any vacant ground adjoining or near to a street, make or cause or permit or suffer to be made, any loud or continuous noise by means of any organ or other similar instrument to the annoyance or disturbance of residents. ‑ Hammersmith 1905
  • A problem which is becoming more acute is that of noise. By this is not meant the inevitable increase in the “background of noise”, but the more specific causes of noise in so far as they affect health. Of particular concern to Southall is the noise from aeroplanes, especially at night time. Southall has two aerodromes, Hanworth and Heston, within a short distance. ‑ Southall 1934
  • I refer to the number of petty annoyances that keep us perpetually on the alert night and day, such as street calls and shouting, whether during the day or at the closing of the public houses, loud, vulgar, insane choruses by half drunken men in vans and brakes, vulgar horse play by lads at or near the station at night, perpetual barking of dogs often all night. ‑ Wembley 1902
  • The district of St. Marylebone possesses streets in which a large proportion of the houses are fitted up as nursing establishments. There is one disadvantage, that is, some of the sufferers require the muffling of the street noises as far as possible, hence these nursing streets are almost constantly littered with straw. ‑ Marylebone 1898
  • Ranelagh-street, No. 8. The complaint here was of stone masons’ hammering during the day. At Mr. Croft’s, Pork Butcher, Knightsbridge-terrace, that of a nuisance caused by the noise of a sausage-making machine, erected at the rear of complainant’s yard. At Cumberland-street, No. 73, annoyance caused by the playing of an organ next door. ‑ Hanover Square 1861
  • That the Clerk be authorised to write in reply, stating that in the opinion of the Vestry it is advisable that a By-law should be framed prohibiting the throwing of orange peel on the footways, and also that a By-law should be framed to obviate as much as possible noises in the streets after 12 o’clock at night. ‑ Rotherhithe 1894
  • There is no more offensive and disgusting sight or smell than that of a piggery, to say nothing of the nondescript character of the sties in which the animals are usually kept, or the hideous noises with which they invade even the silence of the night. ‑ Wandsworth 1877
  • The factory is small and the space is still further encroached upon by the bales of rags ready for tearing up. The engine is a good deal worn and is very noisy in its working. The machines do not appear to be fixed on very substantial foundations, and vibrate a good deal. ‑ Bethnal Green 1888
  • Cock-crowing at 1 a.m, the barking of dogs, the cooing of pigeons near your chamber window, or any other nuisance arising from noise, by which the sleep of nervous people is disturbed, is a serious annoyance, and probably ought, as in the manner of the street music, to be under control, or to be put down by law; but I cannot treat them as Sanitary nuisances. ‑ Paddington 1870
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Mile End 1872

There is also a class of nuisances which, although apparently of a petty nature, may and do inflict much serious injury and annoyance, more especially to invalids. I refer to unnecessary street noises — to dog barking, cock crowing, railway whistling, noise of machinery, &c. I have seen patients dangerously ill suffer severely from these nuisances, the greatest injury being prevention of sleep; yet they, and the authorities, are powerless to suppress or remove them, complaints made to the selfish owners of such nuisances being generally treated with indifference or derision. Although these matters appear trifling, they are always more or less injurious to some, and, in many instances, not only assume dangerous proportions, but produce serious and fatal results. I have therefore not thought them unworthy of passing allusion, and hope they will obtain more definite notice in forthcoming health legislation. Rest is not only essential in disease, but for the preservation of health. How can this be secured in London, if the noises inseparable from day-time are perpetuated throughout the night in still more hideous and injurious forms? The best efforts should be directed to obtain the benefits of nocturnal rest for toiling Londoners, they would then feel less necessity for artificial stimulation during the day, enjoy better health, do more work, and have longer lives.

Wembley 1902

Noisy Nuisances.

It is required by a memorandum of the L.G.B. that I inform you of all matters affecting, or likely to affect, the health of the inhabitants, either collectively or as individuals. I desire to briefly refer to a few of the oft recurring and ever-increasing sources of nerve irritation in our midst. Those that we find in the home, whether due to the constant reaction of married folk upon each other, to chronic ill-health, to servants, or other domestic worry, we cannot control, though we may be frequently and painfully aware of their existence, but those that are thrust upon us from without we can or ought to be able to check, or certainly to regulate or diminish.

I refer to the number of petty annoyances that keep us perpetually on the alert night and day, such as street calls and shouting, whether during the day or at the closing of the public houses, loud, vulgar, insane choruses by half drunken men in vans and brakes, especially on Sunday nights along the main road, the majority coming from the direction of Harrow and the regions beyond, vulgar horse play by lads at or near the station at night, perpetual barking of dogs often all night, especially in Ranelagh Road, epidemic of organ grinders in our streets, fiercely shrill and apparently unnecessary whistling from the railway engines of fast trains approaching or passing through Wembley, add to these a chime of eight bells if not actually discordant, certainly in no way melodious, and you have a few of the noisy nuisances that we could so easily do without.

I happen to know a number of nervous people who have come purposely to reside here to be away from the bustle and noise of the great city, to enjoy the quiet and the semi-rural character of the place, to do their gardening or to read in peace, and go to bed at nine or ten, but who often find it impossible or difficult, when even night is made horrid with these nuisances. I suggest that the County Council bye-laws be more rigidly enforced, that the mounted police wait upon the blackguards on the vans, that the Railway Companies be asked to be less vindictive with their whistling, that some concerted action be taken to reduce the number of street organs, householders patronising only one a week instead of three in the space of a few hundred yards, as was seen in Wembley a few days ago. I feel that many of these nuisances could be abolished, and I am sure you will not regard these matters as too trivial for your notice when you come to consider my report in detail.

St Pancras 1904

Leighton Crescent is controlled by a Committee of the adjoining residents, and the Secretary is Mr. Blunton, of No. 6, Leighton Crescent, N.W. The Crescent, Euston Street, is owned by the London and North Western Railway Company. The enclosed Gardens adjoining Regent’s Park Terrace and Maitland Park Villas, are owned by adjoining owners of land, and are maintained by them.


It is to be observed that in their effect upon the atmosphere and the population the two classes of open spaces produce opposite results. The open spaces planted with herbage, flowering plants, shrubs, and trees purify and cleanse the atmosphere, and afford the means of recreating and recruiting the health of the people surrounding them, and the only noises heard within them are the piping sounds of children’s voices.

The open spaces devoted to railway purposes are bare of vegetation and from them proceed the smoke of railway engines, the clanking of shunting trucks, the rumbling of trains, the vibration of heavy moving weights, the explosions of fog signals, shrill whistlings, and other disturbances of matter immensely conducive to the activities of the nation, but not to the health of the people immediately surrounding. In addition they form large enclosed areas inaccessible to the public, and obstructive to local traffic, transit, and inter-communication.

What contribution outside the Parliamentary Acts of the Railway Companies does the nation make towards the health and well-being of the local community subjected to these ills, for the nation’s welfare?

Bethnal Green 1927

While it does not admit of statistical measurement, there can be little doubt that the Council’s provision of milk for necessitous mothers and children has been an important contributing factor to the improved standard of child life in the borough. The milk provides much needed increased resistance to the debilitating effects of over-crowding, noise and dirt, deficiency of sunlight and air, and the other concomitants of poverty in a congested urban area. Its value in better health far outweighs its modest cost in cash.

Holborn 1928

To the tired worker solitude in pastoral scenes on the moor or mountain side or by the sea brings the peace and repose that comes from quietude. This is an age of noise; we have grown up without noticing its gradual] increase. In industrial pursuits the harmful effects of excessive noise on the hearing and the part it plays in producing fatigue are well known: in so far as they are unavoidable, they represent one of the costs of industrial civilisation. Are the noises of the city highway, in any serious measure, harmful to health? Many street noises are unrhythmic, discordant, varied in quality, pitch and, intensity and, above all, unpredictable. The sudden unexpected screech of the hooter, the rattling of the heavy omnibus, of the laden lorry, the unexpected explosion of the exhaust of the motor vehicle overstimulate and call up unnecessarily the sense of hearing and exhaust the brain; the noisiness of London means an enormous drain of energy even from those who are not acutely conscious of the noise as a nuisance, but who, nevertheless, all the while are unconsciously putting up a resistance to it. These noises harm the passers-by whose brains are not concentrated on work; the office worker must perforce take steps to combat the insufferable nuisance. The windows must be kept closed, with all the consequent disadvantages of discomfort ensuing on inadequate ventilation. This precaution does not always suffice in the case of professional men grappling with vital and intricate problems; the disturbance of intensive concentration causes irritation and the consequence is fatigue. Thousands of people work late at night and right through the night hours, sleeping as best they can during the daytime when noises and sounds prevent the unbroken sleep which is needed to give the body perfect rest so that it can store up energy for the working hours.

For the sick and convalescent in hospitals and nursing homes, quiet is imperative at all times: for these sufferers zones of silence must be enforced. Legislation already exists to deal with certain objectionable noises; soon it will be extended to motor traffic. A responsible Conference has recommended the making of a regulation* under the Motor Car Acts to deal with extensive and avoidable noise from motor vehicles which are badly constructed, badly loaded or in faulty condition. The Conference agreed that the excessive use of horns and their nerve racking noise constituted a legitimate grievance. Other remedies worthy of consideration are the placing of white lines across the opening of side roads into main roads to obviate hooting, the limitation of weight and bulk of goods carried by road, the control of the speed and hours of work of lorries, the prohibition of the sale of motor cycles without effective silencers, the prohibition of the use of pneumatic drills at night in proximity to occupied dwelling houses. Much is to be said in favour of the total prohibition of such drills on the ground of the injury to health caused to the workmen using them. A comprehensive measure would be the inclusion of all excessive and avoidable noise, whatever its source, as a nuisance with which sanitary authorities were empowered to deal under new Public Health legislation.

*Regulations have now been made and come into force on Aug. 1st, 1929.

Bethnal Green 1929


The commonsense fact remains that in the vast majority of cases the gift of milk to a necessitous mother or child is of obvious benefit in building up under-nourished or unsuitably-nourished bodies and in strengthening the capacity to resist the evil effects of overcrowding, shortage of sunshine and fresh air, presence of noise, dirt, etc. Until such time as every family is in a position to provide for itself, the expenditure on milk grants can be regarded as a sound public health investment.

Bethnal Green 1929

NOISE. During the past few years the question of noise as a factor in ill - health has received well needed attention. In 1928 the British Medical Association prepared a Memorandum on Preventable Noises which was submitted to the Minister of Health. The subject has more recently been under consideration by the Metropolitan Boroughs’ Standing Joint Committee. Among the preventable noises may be mentioned :—

(i) insufficiently silenced motor vehicles ;

(ii) unnecessarily raucous warning instruments carried by motor vehicles;

(iii) barking dogs and crowing cocks, especially in congested areas;

(iv) cries and bells of street vendors;

(v) careless handling of milk churns;

(vi) noise from shunting, etc., on railways;

(vii) public wireless loud speakers;

(viii) industrial machinery constructed or operated without regard to the noise produced thereby.

The fact that noise produces no immediate or obvious ailment and that the adaptable human body gets used to it as to other bad conditions is no argument for accepting it as a disagreeable but necessary evil. As was pointed out by the distinguished doctors who took part in the deputation to the Minister of Health, noise has an insidious but very definite prejudicial effect upon health, and it contributes to a great deal of nervous disease as well as complicating or retarding recovery from other ailments.

The time has come when public health authorities should insist that active steps be taken to reduce the amount of noise from which the public suffers, much of it preventable by the exercise of a little intelligence. It is to be hoped that engineers and transport administrators will devote some of their skill to devising machinery and vehicles which will operate with the minimum of nervous injury to the public at large.

Westminster 1929


The “mechanization” of living in modern conditions (if the word may be borrowed from its military context), particularly in large centres of population, has resulted in the perpetuation of noise to such an extent that many see in it a menace to the public health. It is perhaps one of the drawbacks of the progress of civilization. It is certain that noise of particular pitch or repetitive character can cause nervous exhaustion and perhaps nervous disease of functional nature. Loss of sleep, interference with concentration and other contributions to loss of human efficiency may in some cases be justifiably attributed to noise.

*The Corporation of Edinburgh has taken the matter up in the interests of public health, but so far has been unable to persuade Parliament to grant powers of suppression. The difficulty seems to lie in defining unreasonable or unnecessary noise, preventable noise, noise capable of mitigation and noise dangerous to health. Should action be confined to noise arising from any trade, occupation or business? That would leave untouched the roysterers who make night hideous. Street drilling by day or by night is harrowing, but it is “necessary” noise and would also be immune from legislation.

Private individuals in “Westminster have been successful in obtaining injunctions at common law for disturbance caused by the music of powerful organs in cinemas in the neighbourhood of their dwellings.

The Public Health Committee considered the question of noise on a reference from the Metropolitan Boroughs’ Standing Joint Committee. The former was reminded that noise had been recognized for some years as something which should be controlled by law inasmuch that the City Council and the London County Council had made by-laws in instances such as music near hospitals, street shouting, &c., &c., &c.

Complaints are received in the department from time to time as to noise arising from machinery in buildings near dwellings, collection and delivery of milk churns and many other causes. Usually the only remedy available for the complainant is to move for an injunction.

At the present time the local authority has no powers to deal with noise other than that regulated by particular by-law. The trend of opinion is, however, moving towards some measures for the control or prohibition of noise, and the time may not be far distant when the legislature may give effect to what appears to be a growing public desire.

* Since the above was written, Edinburgh has obtained powers from Parliament in an Act which contains a section devoted to the prohibition of noise as a nuisance. It is hoped that similar powers may be requested and granted for London.

Holborn 1929

The noise nuisance in cities is by no means a new evil. “Staple Inn,” wrote Dickens, “is one of those nooks the turning into which from the dashing street imparts to the relieved pedestrian the sensation of having put cotton wool in his ears and velvet soles on his boots.” To-day the volume of traffic down the main thoroughfares of London is vastly increased; in 1930 there are, fortunately or unfortunately, conditions new to Charles Dickens, which add to the complexity of life and incidentally increase its noisiness. Harley Street, a relatively quiet place, at any rate up to the present, is objecting to unnecessary noise: it prevents them getting on with their work. Last year and now the possibility of legislative action to mitigate the nuisance caused by noise has been much discussed, and is being discussed, in administrative circles and in technical journals, engineering and medical—the “Lancet” has dealt with it: the importance of excessive noise and general interest taken, in the possibility of it being reduced are also reflected in the morning and evening newspapers.

Additional evidence of the seriousness of the nuisance, if any were wanted, is the amount of attention that has been devoted to the matter not only here but also in Germany, Canada, and the United. States of America. In New York City medical research has brought out fresh evidence on the deleterious effects of noise. The Medical Noise Abatement Sub-Committee, appointed by the Health Commissioner (Dr. Shirley W. Wynne), has found definite proof that noise causes considerable disturbance to t he mechanism of the human body as evidenced by an increased pulse rate, increased blood pressure, and irregularities in the rhythm of the heart; these produce increase of pressure in the brain. This is by no means all the story: among other effects is interference with the metabolism of the body, the building up of the body from the intake of food is hindered. These scientific findings have influenced the minds of technical men, the demand of the people that there shall be less noise has turned the mind of engineers and workers towards the production of less noisy machinery and vehicles; they are learning the needlessness of noise and, it may be, the costliness of noise. Administrative action has followed: inter alia, the nuisance arising from radio loud-speakers is being brought under control by local legislation. Henceforth, in New York City, no sound-producing apparatus will be allowed to disturb the quiet or repose of persons in its vicinity, and the use of loud-speakers or other amplifying devices is forbidden in any public street or place without a permit from the police commissioner, or in any case within 250 feet of a school, court-house, church, or hospital during the hours when these places are in use. In these islands some local authorities in England and Wales have extensive powers designed to prevent nuisance from noise.

At Edinburgh valuable progress has been made by the provisions of Section 34 of the Edinburgh Corporation Order Confirmation Act, 1930. The section is as follows:— 34 (1) A noise shall be liable to be dealt with summarily in the manner provided in Part II of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, in the same way and to the same effect as in cases under Sub-Section (6) of Section 16 of that Act, and the Corporation shall have all the powers and duties with reference to a noise nuisance which a local authority has with reference to a nuisance under the said Act. (2) For the purpose of this section a noise nuisance shall be deemed to exist where any person makes or continues, or causes to be made or continued, any excessive or unreasonable or unnecessary noise, and where such noise: (a) is injurious or dangerous to health, and (b) is capable of being prevented or mitigated, having due regard to all the circumstances of the case: Provided that if the noise is occasioned in the course of any trade, business, or occupation, it shall be a good defence that the best practical means of preventing or mitigating it having regard to the cost have been adopted. (3) Nothing contained in this section shall apply to a railway company or their servants exercising statutory powers. The powers available in Holborn are not very extensive. In Holborn the by-laws made by the Council for the suppression of street cries are in force, and on 1st August, 1929, the more general legislation—Motor Cars (Excessive Noise) Regulations, 1929—came into operation. These regulations, however, cannot be regarded as dealing adequately with the problem, nor are they as comprehensive as the Edinburgh legislation.

The Holborn Council, therefore, adopted a resolution asking the London County Council to consider the promotion of legislation for London on lines similar to those adopted in Edinburgh. During the preparation of this report a communication has been received from the Clerk to the London County Council to the effect that the County Council has decided to take no action to obtain by legislation further powers to deal with the noise nuisance. It is interesting to observe that in the report of the Local Government Committee of the London County Council it is admitted that there are noises not fully dealt with by the Motor Cars (Excessive Noise) Regulations or by-laws made by the London County Council or the Borough Councils, such for example as mechanical road-breaking or road-making appliances (e.g., pneumatic drills), noise caused by motor horns especially when traffic is held up and noise caused by wireless loud-speakers. One newspaper comment on this decision was “Peace for the Deaf.” The fact remains that a large section of the Public complain of excessive noise; Holborn residents and workers are bringing their complaints to the Medical Officer of Health. If further testimony were necessary of the seriousness of the evil, it is found in the ready response made by the persons responsible for the nuisance.

The progressive attitude of the Holborn Borough Council is exemplified by their proposal to make a new by-law dealing with nuisance caused by loud-speakers and gramophones. Complaint is frequently made of the annoyance caused by the playing of loud-speakers in shops for the sale of wireless instruments and accessories. It is the practice, in many instances, to place a loud-speaker in or about the entrance to the shop in order to attract the attention of the passers-by without regard to the disturbing effect the frequent playing has on other businesses or offices in the immediate vicinity. The Police Authorities have been asked to assist in mitigating the nuisance, but they are unable to render more than little assistance in this direction as the instruments are on private property. The Holborn Town Clerk is taking the necessary steps to enable The Council to make the following by-law:—

“No person shall in any street or public place, or in any shop, business premises, or place which adjoins any street or public place, and to which the public are admitted, operate or cause to suffer to be operated, any wireless loud-speaker or gramophone in such a manner as to cause annoyance to, or disturbance of, occupants or inmates of any premises or passengers. Any person offending against the foregoing by-law shall be liable upon conviction to a penalty not exceeding forty shillings.”

Westminster 1933

Noise from the Use of Rock Drills in Street Works.

The Council on the 20th July, 1933, referred the question of noise caused by the use of rock drills in street works to the Works and Public Health, &c., Committees for consideration and report. The Medical Officer of Health reported upon the subject to the Committees concerned and as the matter is of public interest his report is fully set out:— The Use of Rock Drills in Street Works and the Effect of their Noise on the Health of the People.

1. This matter is part of a reference from the Council at its meeting on 20th July last. The whole reference was made to the Works Committee which was instructed to consult with the Public Health Committee as to the aspect outlined at the head of this report. It is now understood that the Works Committee wish to be favoured with the views of the Public Health Committee.

2. It is unfortunately true that increasing noise seems to be a natural accompaniment of changing conditions particularly in cities and towns, but even in rural areas murmurs of complaint are being heard because of the motor traffic which rends the silence of the night. During the past few months The Times newspaper has given liberal opportunity for expression of opinion on the harmful effects of noise on health and from many authoritative quarters has come an appeal to mitigate or to prevent this menace. Thus has arisen a definite movement of public opinion now organised in a society called the Anti-Noise League, which numbers among its members many distinguished men and women including leading physicians and surgeons.

3. So far as can be gathered the activities of this League are directed against such noises as arise from motor vehicles, the handling of milk churns, church bells and others more or less of a chronic character. Very little attention has been given to the much more acute and violent noise from rock drills which is necessarily periodic, but constant during the operation of these implements.

4. With regard to interference with health one should first examine the question as it affects work and rest. The interference is so obvious that it needs but little elaboration. Mental concentration, discussion and the normal transaction of business is almost impossible within 20 yards of these drills and of course the evil is magnified according to the number being operated. It has been alleged that loss of business has been experienced in shops and similar premises adjacent. In a neighbourhood of mixed business and residential buildings the factions struggle for privilege. The non-residents would prefer the drilling to proceed only at night while the residents indignantly retort that their sleep has the prior claim for respect. There can be little doubt that the over stimulation of the auditory sense organs leads to nervous exhaustion and impaired efficiency.

5. Interference with rest and sleep is of a more serious nature as an average healthy individual cannot work to the best advantage unless he obtains sufficient rest and sleep. If road drilling is carried on late at night or early in the morning near dwellings the residents arc bound to suffer. Those who are fortunate enough to be masters of their own time arrange to go on holiday or otherwise temporarily leave the district until road operations are over. For those who must remain at home this period is trying in the extreme. Usually road drilling docs not last longer than a week or two, but in special circumstances it may persist for months. During the recent summer in a certain street in Westminster, drilling continued every day except on Sundays and with two or three days of peace occasionally intervening from early in July until well into September; a series of small areas of the roadway were being explored. For those who are confined to their houses by illness, conditions are of course definitely serious. It requires but little imagination to appreciate that the recovery of a case of acute or serious illness might be jeopardised by the deprivation of rest and sleep and the exhaustion caused by constant vibratory noise.

6. During September the Medical Officer of Health took steps to investigate conditions at Westminster Hospital while street excavation was in progress. The Secretary of the Hospital hastened to assure the Medical Officer that the City Council had been most considerate of the interests of the Hospital and in consequence the latter did not wish to make any complaints. It was explained that it would be helpful if an unbiased statement on the effects of the noise then in progress could be obtained. The following is an extract from the report kindly supplied by the Resident Medical Officer dated 13th September, 1933:— ” At least half of the Hospital was practically sleepless for nights at a time. The chief sufferers were naturally those about to be operated upon and those whose operations had just been performed. At least two eases awaiting thyroidectomy suffered acutely, whilst the many cases of head injuries in the Casualty Ward were to be profoundly pitied. In fact, hospital treatment, medical and surgical, has been seriously interfered with. On one occasion a private patient insisted upon leaving the Hospital owing to the disturbance. Apart from the patients, I found the resident medical officers suffered considerably. As far as my own duties were concerned, my whole days and nights for about three weeks were never free from the noise of hammering, and I was constantly up at night trying to make things bearable. Please do not think I am making unnecessary complaints, but six automatic drills working in a line for hours at a time, filling the Surgery, the Wards, and the Resident Medical Officer’s Rooms with dust, has rendered life extremely unpleasant.” It will be noted that in addition to noise, dust is alluded to as a cause of nuisance.

7. The Medical Officer has consulted the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene as to the results of any investigations of the effects of rock drills on health. The former body is not concerned with health but expressed willingness to take up the question of research into the maintenance of roads and methods of repairs, &c.

8. The London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene has been keenly interested on the health aspect for some considerable time. Dr. Crowden, a member of the staff, has been working on the subject and has different types of these drills fitted up in his Laboratory with the stone and concrete medium in which they operate. His conclusions so far are briefly as follows:— (1) Among riveters and boilermakers incurable deafness develops in the course of time. A large proportion of the men arc affected and it is due to the concussions of sound and sudden changes of air pressure incidental to riveting in an enclosed space, e.g., between decks in a shipyard. Road drillers on the other hand work in the open and apparently are not subject to deafness. (2) Riveters and boilermakers suffer from the effects of vibration on their hands ; a chronic numbness is caused due to interference with the circulation. These effects were largely dependent on cold; coldness of the atmosphere and of the handles of the apparatus. In the ease of road workers the air conducted to the drills is conveyed in comparatively short pipes and is, therefore, not cooled in long transit. The handles are not cold and these road workers do not suffer from the disturbance of circulation mentioned above. Dr. Crowden has not yet investigated the medical records of hospitals to see whether there are any grounds for assuming that complaints of nervous or other diseases arc based on the occupation under discussion. 9. It is most important to observe that the workers themselves do not receive the main impact of the noise as the sound and percussion waves intensify as they impinge on any high stone buildings surrounding.

10. In his enquiries he found that the men greatly preferred the mechanical drills to the hand pick and hammer. In one. instance a body of men threatened to strike because they were asked to go back to the methods of using human energy. Several firms reported that with manual excavation their casualty rate increased noticeably; chipped hands, fragments lodging in the eyes and other injuries were not uncommon. That was the main reason for the men’s preference for the mechanical drills.

11. The use of silencers diminishes the intensity of vibration but also lessens the efficiency of the instrument. Therefore, in order to complete certain work within a given time it would require additional partially silenced drills for every single unsilenced one. More men would be required and the net result would prove of no advantage because those extra drills would cause quite as much noise as a single unsilenced drill.

12. Dr. Crowden has studied the methods of ear stopping used among gun crews in the Navy, and in shipyards and other industries, and showed various types with which he had experimented. One of the most efficient and certainly the cheapest is shown to the Committee. They ought to be distributed among those who are about to be subjected to the noise of road drilling in their close vicinity.

13. In December, 1929, the Medical Officer of Health reported on the prevention of noise in connection with a presentment from the Metropolitan Standing Joint Committee. Although the matter under present consideration is limited to ” rock drills,” yet it may be interesting to recall that no fewer than seven different sources of noise were enumerated on that occasion as being causes of complaint to the Public Health Department. He commented on the fact that the By-laws made by the City Council from time to time to control different types of noise nuisance had been of great public benefit; and the London County Council had also made by-laws for other sources of noise which had also been effective.

14. Since those days other and no less obnoxious noises have arisen and some local authorities, notably Edinburgh, have sought powers to prohibit certain noires. There is no doubt that sooner or later public opinion will demand some measure of relief from this growing nuisance. Summary. The noise caused by the use of rock drills :— (1) Interferes with the work, occupations, or other activities of those in close proximity to the scene of their operations. (2) Is definitely harmful to the sick and may even jeopardise the lives of those suffering from acute or dangerous illness. (3) Disturbs the rest and sleep of those living nearby and is in consequence prejudicial to, and in some cases, injurious to health. (4) Under existing conditions, and so far as can be ascertained at present, is not prejudicial to the health of those operating these instruments. (5) Usually lasts in any given locality but for a limited period say one or two weeks and this is an important point in mitigation. (6) Is preferred by the workers to hand driven methods of operation. (7) Is somewhat diminished by fitting silencers, but to make up for the resulting loss of efficiency more drills must be employed. (8) Can be lessened in intensity for the sufferers if they use ear stops. These could be distributed among patients and other susceptible individuals. (9) Is only one among the many which are causing much concern. A public movement has been organised to combat this menace to health and quietude. The Committee might sec fit to express an opinion that although the noise caused by the use of rock drills in street works may arise in any given locality for a period of only a few days and may not recur for several years, yet there is evidence that health may be injuriously affected thereby and requests the Works Committee to consider what steps should be taken to effect its diminution. The Council received the report of the Committees on the 14th December and resolved that representations be made to the appropriate Government Departments with a view to special research being undertaken for the reduction of noise caused by the use of rock drills in street works.

Southall-Norwood 1934

A problem which is becoming more acute is that of noise. By this is not meant the inevitable increase in the ” background of noise ” which is part and parcel of increasing urbanisation, but the more specific causes of noise in so far as they affect health. Of particular concern to Southall is the noise from aeroplanes, especially at night time. Southall has two aerodromes, Hanworth and Heston, within a short distance, the latter being just over the boundary. It is stated that Heston will shortly increase greatly in its volume of traffic, and as advances are made there will undoubtedly be a great increase in the amount of night-flying. There is evidence to show that a mere background of noise, if excessive is injurious to health. Noise at such time and of such degree of intensity as to arouse sleepers and to keep them awake must be potentially even more injurious to health. Unfortunately all aeroplane constructive advance so far seems to have been in the direction of increased stability, speed and general efficiency ; very little has been done with regard to the suppression of excessive sound. Motor cars and motor cycles were at quite an early stage in their development subjected to restrictive legislation with regard to noise and it certainly seems desirable, if not essential in the interest of health, that aircraft too should be controlled in this way.

Bethnal Green 1934

NOISE. I again draw attention to the urgent need for legislation to deal with the growing evil of noise. In the streets, we have more and more mechanical vehicles of greater size and power and carrying heavier loads, to say nothing of street repairing machines and building operations. There are factories containing powerful machinery often worked until late in the evening. The housing shortage frequently compels families to live in close proximity to industrial buildings; and where loud processes are carried on at all hours of the night as well as during the day, life almost becomes intolerable. It is useless for the doctors and health visitors at the welfare centres to advise good habits of sleep, when the means of practising such habits is denied the parents. This barrage on our complex nervous system is not conducive to good health and temper and ought to be brought under stringent public restriction. The people who have become accustomed to turn to the Public Health Department for assistance in dealing with their health problems cannot understand our helplessness in the face of an obvious menace to health, and it is to be hoped that some definite action will be taken very soon to deal with the matter.

Wembley 1934

NOISE. I suppose there is no doubt that the nuisance of noise is detrimental to health — is positively harmful to the sensitive and nervous invalid. We know that the Anti-Noise League has a Committee sitting which is dealing with the social and scientific aspect of noise, with a view to early legislation. We shall all be anxious to see their final report. The unnecessary noises we are all suffering from are legion. Among them may be mentioned those due to inefficient silencers on sports cars and motor cycles—over these the police have some control, but only seldom exert it. The din outside offices produced by roller skating should certainly be prevented. The shrill screaming whistles of the fast trains passing through Wembley night and day cannot be so frequently necessary. The noise made by old, worn out lorries materially adds to the nuisance. Even the quiet of Sunday is seriously disturbed by the fearful noise overhead due almost entirely to civil aviation. It is quite time this received attention. We know how useful, perhaps necessary, is the pneumatic drill, but the noise produced is appalling! Some attempt should be made to mask or mitigate this, by boxing in or casing the immediate part operated with asbestos or rubber. Fortunately this nuisance only stays in one spot a short time.

Barking 1936

Secondly, I would point out that lack of sleep is also a cause of malnutrition. It is during sleep that growth and repair take place, in contrast to the daytime when energy is being expended at the maximum rate. In this connection noise nuisances cannot be over-estimated. Wireless sets can cheat many children of their proper sleep, and the more children there are who are out of bed when they should be in bed and the more the streets are turned into playgrounds, so will the quality of the sleep of those who do go to bed early be impaired.