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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Best practices for the assessment of the public health effects of noise from proposed development projects Raska, Andrea


Governments and organizations around the world are increasingly considering public health as part of planning, assessment, and decision making processes for large development projects, such as new transportation corridors or industrial facilities. To date, there are no established or consistent methods for the consideration of environmental noise in assessment processes for these projects. The overarching objective of this thesis is to identify best practices for considering the public health effects of environmental noise when assessing the potential impacts of development projects. The term “noise impact assessment” (NIA) is proposed, including a framework adapted from human health risk assessment and health impact assessment processes. Best practices for the NIA process were identified following a literature review in four key subject areas: (1) health effects of noise; (2) noise prediction/noise modeling; (3) practices in health impact assessment; and (4) practices in environmental impact assessment. Themes and lessons from the literature in each of the four key subject areas were identified and applied to the NIA framework. A total of thirteen best practices were identified. In particular, this work emphasizes the importance of assessing health impacts themselves in addition to noise exposure. It identifies the “percent [of people] highly annoyed [by noise]” (%HA) and “percent [of people] highly sleep disturbed [by noise]” (%HSD) metrics as recommended quantitative and objective measures of the adverse health effects of noise appropriate for use in NIA. At the same time, this work recommends a flexible assessment approach that considers both objective and subjective, acoustical and non-acoustical factors that impact human health, including noise level, community context, and noise sensitivity. Finally, this thesis argues against noise management as an appropriate focus of any noise reduction strategy because it has limited potential to meaningfully change noise exposures. While there is a broad literature relating to the health impacts of environmental noise, and numerous best practices for health impact assessment and human health risk assessment, this work is the first to bring these areas of research together and identify best practices for considering environmental noise in the assessment process for development projects.

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