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Noise Pollution Too High, Ministry Finds, but Aircraft Is Only Part of the Problem

Many Israelis are exposed to high levels of noise from city streets and military aircraft, as well as from building construction and renovations, car alarms and leaf blowers.

Many residents of Israel are exposed to high levels of noise from city streets and military air traffic as well as from urban sources such as building construction and renovations, car alarms and leaf blowers. These are among the findings in a new report by the Environmental Protection Ministry, and in data collected by the ministry's Noise and Radiation Abatement Division.

The ministry's draft regulations on noise in urban areas are stuck in the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee due to opposition from various quarters.

According to the report, Israel's population density is the second-highest among developed nations, after Belgium. More than 500,000 Israelis are exposed to urban street noise at levels exceeding 70 decibels. Exposure to noise at such levels is a risk factor for heart disease and suppression of the immune system.

Military air traffic poses a particular noise pollution hazard, because more people are exposed to it than to civil air traffic noise. Building restrictions due to overflights affect four percent of Israel's land area. Only one-fourth of these areas are near civil airports. The noise problems generated by the four military airfields that are close to urban areas exceed those of Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The recommendations on preventing noise that the ministry is trying to get passed would impose significant restrictions on noise generated by car alarms, leaf blowers and music amplification, as well as on building renovations. They would further limit the number of hours during which such noise would be permissible. Car alarms would be prohibited completely. Fireworks and car alarm manufacturers who oppose the new guidelines have presented their arguments to the Knesset committee, which must approve the recommendations. Opposition has also come from educational institutions, which do not want restrictions on musical events, and from city governments that want to continue to use leaf blowers.

Ministry officials argue that quieter and more effective alternatives to leaf blowers are available, and that holding musical events at schools indoors would obviate the need for high-volume amplification.