(CLICK TO ENLARGE) The sound level meter reads 102.4 decibels (dB) measured about 12 feet away from the blaring amplifier. The measurement was made at 5:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30. The non-stop noise disturbs residents, business owners and customers for more than four hours every Saturday. The broken D.C. noise law provides no limits on non-commercial amplified speech between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)
Free speech is a right. Making unlimited noise with an amplifier should not be, as it apparently is in the District of Columbia. It is an issue of health and safety.
Several neighbors and I scraped together $80 for a handheld Extech sound level meter
. It gauges the loudness of sound, which is measured in decibels (dB). The city noise inspector at the Dept. of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs used a similar device when he issued three separate citations to one noisemaking group at H and 8th St. However, those citations were thrown out after the D.C. Office of Attorney general pointed out the loophole in the city statute.
So, just how loud is 102.4 dB like I measured at H and 8th Streets NE Saturday?
According to the League for Hard of Hearing
, here are points of reference measured in decibels:
0 dB: The softest sound a person can hear with normal hearing
10 dB: normal breathing
20 dB: whispering at 5 feet
30 dB: soft whisper
40 dB: quiet residential area
50 dB: rainfall
60 dB: normal conversation
85 dB: heavy traffic, noisy restaurant
90 dB: power lawnmower
100 dB: factory machinery
110 dB: rock concert, shouting in ear
120 dB: thunder
And is 102 dB dangerous to human ears? Absolutely. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety
says without proper hearing protection, exposure to 103 dB for less than eight minutes may cause hearing loss. Most people wait longer than that at intersection’s four bus stops.
The city council must fix the broken noise law to protect health and safety for all residents. Clearly, it’s an important issue--it's time for the councilmembers to have their hearing checked.