Noise pollution is a major public health and worker safety concern, as studies have shown that long-term exposure to loud noises has myriad negative health impacts, including increased stress, hypertension, fatigue, hearing loss, heightened susceptibility to disease, lower worker awareness in loud industrial environments, and even premature death.
Acoustic insulation – a $9 billion global market in 2018, according to a recent study from The Freedonia Group – can be used to mitigate such issues. These sound dampening materials can be used in residential and commercial settings to muffle the sounds emitted by machinery, motor vehicles, and factories, as well as reduce noise transmission between interior walls and floors. So it’s no surprise that whenever new noise emission regulations are implemented, acoustic insulation is one of the first solutions.
Public Health Measures Seek to Quiet Ill Effects of Noise Pollution
Worldwide, noise pollution is regulated at all levels of government due to the well-established correlation between exposure to excessive noise – typically in rapidly expanding urban areas – and poor health outcomes among community members.
The most common sources of noise pollution include:
- transportation (e.g. road, rail, and air traffic; and emergency vehicles)
- construction and industrial activity
- radios and televisions set to high volume in shops, restaurants, and bars
- low-frequency noise, such as that generated by human footsteps, air ventilation systems, and power generation and transmission systems
According to the World Health Organization, these factors can be mitigated by public health measures, such as local building codes requiring the installation of acoustic insulation on new residential buildings.
The cities with the lowest incidence of hearing loss relative to the average age of the population – such as Vienna, Austria and Munich, Germany – not only tend to have comprehensive noise-reduction regulations in place, but also support broad resident-based initiatives to supplement the impact of those laws.
By contrast, in cities such as Istanbul, Turkey (where regulation and enforcement of noise pollution standards are lacking), premature hearing loss is much more prevalent.
Western Europe Leads Acoustic Insulation Use, While China & India Lag
According to Mimi Hearing Technologies’ 2017 Worldwide Hearing Index, the cities with the least noise pollution are primarily concentrated in the EU, which has operated under the Environmental Noise Directive of the European Parliament – some of the strictest noise emission standards in the world – since 2002.
As a result, Western Europe is the most intensive consumer of acoustic insulation on a regional basis, and Freedonia anticipates that its use should only continue to rise given the Eurozone’s increasingly stringent noise pollution and worker safety regulations.
Conversely, areas with large, under-regulated industrial and manufacturing sectors, particularly in the Asia/Pacific region – including Guangzhou, China and Delhi and Mumbai in India – contain the highest levels of noise pollution. In smaller, wealthier Asia/Pacific nations like Taiwan, noise pollution standards tend to be more strictly enforced, and thus more effective.
With Laws in Place, Questions of How to Enforce Noise Regulations Remain
Government efforts to control noise levels in some of these under-regulated areas are increasing, resulting in a spate of recent laws and initiatives:
- As of 2018, Chinese businesses are to be taxed for exceeding the maximum noise levels established by China’s Environmental Protection Tax Law. The law replaced the country’s Pollutant Discharge Fee system, in place since 1979, which enabled local governments to exempt big polluters from paying fines.
- In May 2017, Turkey passed the Regulation on Preventing Building Noise Pollution, which contains technical specifications for building insulation systems that mitigate noise pollution levels.
- Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand are among the other lower-income countries with some noise-abatement requirements.
However, the enforceability and efficacy of these laws remain unclear. Take Mexico, for example. Despite passing stricter noise pollution laws in 2013, its capital city remained in the top 10 globally for worst noise pollution in 2017.
Either way, ongoing efforts to reduce noise transmission in these developing countries presents a tremendous opportunity going forward for both industrial and residential suppliers of acoustic insulation.
To Find Out More
Looking for information on the acoustic insulation industry worldwide? For historical and demand data forecasts by product, market, and region, see The Freedonia Group’s Global Acoustic Insulation study. This study also covers:
- market environment factors
- industry structure
- company market share
- leading roofing companies
About the Author:
Matthew Hurley is an industry analyst at The Freedonia Group, where he writes studies focused on the global construction markets.