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New measures designed to crack down on noise pollution were approved yesterday by the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee. The measures, initiated by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, take effect in four months.

The measures set limits - and in some cases, ban entirely - the use of devices that contribute significantly to everyday noise pollution, such as car alarms, leaf blowers and firecrackers.

Recent studies show that excess noise can lead to sleep problems and reduced concentration, as well as emotional disturbances and hearing problems.

The Union of Local Authorities in Israel said yesterday that the Environmental Protection Ministry had accepted its recommendations to permit leaf blowers categorized as quieter to continue being used in residential areas. Ministry officials denied this, saying that the new rules place an outright ban on the use of leaf blowers in residential areas.

For the first six months after the regulations take effect, car dealers will be prohibited from installing noisy car alarms in their vehicles. Car owners who already have such systems installed will be required to remove them within six years.

Firecrackers may now only be used at least one kilometer from residential areas, or at special events authorized by city authorities. On holidays like Independence Day, Simhat Torah, Purim and Lag Ba'omer, noise restrictions will be eased.

The ministry also agreed to back down from its original plan to prohibit nighttime garbage clearing.

It also agreed that a local government head may approve 12 events a year during which a public-address system may be used two hours later than the regular 11 P.M. deadline.

Erdan: Quiet a 'fundamental need'

"From now on, the public will be able to enjoy quieter residential areas, since the new regulations will lead to a significant improvement in noise-pollution problems," said Erdan. "We live in a densely populated country, and quiet is a fundamental need that is being met less than ever."

Erdan's ministry now has another noise-pollution challenge to address: aircraft noise.

This one is even more complicated, considering that most complaints about aircraft noise come from people living in the vicinity of military air bases, not civilian airports.