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Reducing the level of noise
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We cannot escape noise in our daily lives and seem to accept the physiological and psychological harm it causes.


Though we have long realized it affects our environment and is a threat to our health, noise in all areas, especially in the urban ones, has been increasing rapidly. It seems to be everywhere, inside buildings, out on the streets, up in the sky and even under the ground.


The results of a recent investigation into noise pollution in 10 cities show that it is very serious in big cities.


If some noises to a certain degree can be tolerated, the noise from interior decoration is an exception. We all have experienced the din caused by interior decoration work, but few have to suffer more than I and my colleagues who work at night and sleep during the day when the din starts.


Interior decoration is a must for those moving into new apartments and the decoration usually takes at least two months or more. And many people have their apartments redecorated every four or five years. Furthermore, house ownerships change frequently, which is followed by more decoration work to satisfy the tastes of the new owners. Thus almost all occupants of residential buildings can hardly escape from this nuisance all year round.


Public places are for everyone, but a home is the only place where peace and quiet can prevail and is under the control of the occupant. However, this sanctuary is coming under increasing threat from noise from neighbors or workmen redecorating.


A residential building differs from a public place, it walls in all residents. Any problem in one part of the building affects other residents, and noise is even worse because it carries far and wide.


Though it is difficult for ordinary people to determine how adversely noise affects our health, we know for certain continuous exposure to loud noise leads to stress disorders, especially those with sleeping problems.


Constant exposure also contributes to mental illness. People who already experience health problems are at very high risk.


Those who work at night are most prone. Their sleep during the day is disturbed, affecting their work performance, mood and general wellbeing.


Every building has a life-span, and I wonder what sort of building can withstand the constant hammering and drilling that goes on during redecoration.


The government has relevant regulations on interior decoration work but they only touch on such issues as work times and the demolition of certain walls. The length of time the decoration work takes or how many is up to an owner's decision.


In setting new noise exposure criteria we need to consider what kind of decoration should be regarded as acceptable.


For a quiet environment and our safety, I think we should have strict rules to ban extreme interior decoration work that pays no regard to the structure of buildings. Simple painting of walls should be encouraged.


Wood or stone furniture should not be constructed on the premises, for both cause a lot of noise.


On the property market there are a lot of jingzhuang (elaborately decorated) apartments. But these apartments, though they save consumers the cost of redecoration, do not sell well because of poor materials used.


If real estate developers could upgrade materials, coupled with government preferential policies, eco-friendly apartments can be popularized.


In Shanghai, more than 4 million sq m of such apartments have been constructed and sold since 2001, and the figure keeps rising. Furthermore, a series of policies to benefit both developers and consumers have been introduced to encourage the development of these apartments.


(China Daily November 23, 2007)

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