Noise pollution is an environmental killer second only to air pollution, World Health Organisation research shows.
The 2011 study found that extended exposure to high noise levels increased the risk of high blood pressure and led to an increase in the amount of fatty acids and elevated stress hormones in the blood stream.
Other ill effects can include tinnitus, sleep disturbance, learning impairments in children and general irritation.
Industrial nations in Europe, Australia and the US legislate safe acoustic environments which is set at 85 decibels for an eight hour weighted average.
NSW Health and Safework NSW advise exposure to noise above 85 decibels (dB) when averaged over 8 hours increases the risk of permanent hearing loss. Every 3dB increase after this doubles the risk of hearing loss.
A Supercars Newcastle 500 factsheet says “anticipated that noise levels inside properties located on the ground floor of residential properties, adjacent to the circuit, will be less than 84dB (averaged over the 10 hour race period)”
Noise testing conducted during the 2017 Newcastle 500 found the 140 decibel limit was exceeded nine times in one minute near the Watt Street overpass precinct.
The independent professional study was conducted on behalf of concerned medical professionals and residents during the three day event.
“We have serious concerns for the well-being and hearing health of all those exposed, including children, staff, and attending patrons. Indeed, all persons in close proximity to the racing circuit,” East End resident and engineer Alex Spathis said.
Another visual survey of 1908 people, also conducted at last year’s event, found almost 90 per cent of those who attended the race were not wearing any hearing protection.
The Herald observed about half of all people at this year’s event were wearing some form of hearing protection.
Unlike other racetracks in Australia, 58 per cent of the Newcastle circuit is occupied by homes, apartments and businesses.
A SafeWork spokesman said the organisation had worked with Supercars to produce a noise management plan for workers during the event. It had also worked with businesses around the race precinct to ensure workers are provided with adequate protection from noise exposure.
The spokesman referred other questions to the NSW EPA and Destination NSW.
A spokeswoman for Destination NSW, the Supercars regulatory body, said the 2017 event had complied with all noise regulations.
“Destination NSW continues to require that Supercars Australia addresses all obligations of the Motor Racing (Sydney and Newcastle) Act 2008 and meets the safety criteria specified by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sports, the motor racing governing body, and the Federation of the International de l’Automobile during Newcastle 500 races,” she said.