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Noise pollution is a menace to humanity – and a deadly threat to animals | Karen Bakker

One study grimly noted that human noise may even be scrambling the eggs of baby fish

Noise pollution is one of the gravest yet least recognized health threats of our time. Even moderate levels of noise – the kind that surrounds us in any urban environment – increase risks of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, developmental delays and dementia. Now, scientists are revealing that non-humans, too, suffer from noise pollution – and that they are far more sensitive than humans.

Perhaps nowhere is this more urgent than in the global oceans. Marine animals see and sense the world through sound, which travels faster and farther underwater than light. Whales – which use sound to find prey and navigate, communicate and mate – are one well-known example. But scientists are now revealing that a vast range of marine creatures are exquisitely sensitive to sound. The range of negative effects caused by marine noise pollution is staggering: delayed development, hampered reproduction, stunted growth, distorted migration paths.

Karen Bakker is the director of the University of British Columbia’s Program on Water Governance and the author of The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants

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