There are over 700 banquet halls and gardens around the country, all of which are now bound by a 2006 law to install a "noise monitor" that would cut off the sound system if noise levels exceed 85 decibels. But Hadassah-Israel fears that many halls are ignoring the law due to inadequate enforcement and meager public awareness. Only 16 halls voluntarily installed the noise monitor before the law went into effect, and it is not known how many have done so since. Installation is a precondition to obtaining or extending their annual business license, but as we all know, that doesn't mean the monitors will ever be turned on, as many customers like noisy weddings, and many performers act as if they're being paid by the decibel. The Hadassah-Israel annual conference in January passed a resolution, presented by Julie Hadar and Joan Avigur, that instructed the voluntary body to organize an awareness/information campaign to ensure enforcement of the law and inform the public concerning the health damage caused by excessive noise. Noise is known to cause not only temporary or permanent hearing impairment, but also hypertension, cardiovascular problems and digestive disturbances. It has been linked as well to mental/emotional damage including nervousness, stress, reduced concentration and attentiveness, insomnia, fatigue, irritability and aggressive behavior. Research shows that noise exceeding 85 decibels may impair hearing; the louder the sound, the shorter the time it takes to damage the ears. While it is possible to listen to 90 decibels for eight hours a day before hearing loss occurs, it takes only 15 minutes at 115 decibels. The June 2006 regulations passed by the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee also determine the physical means to assure compliance with the regulations: If noise levels exceed 85 decibels, a warning light installed in the hall is supposed to flicker for 30 seconds, followed by a cut in power to the amplifier system. The director of the noise abatement and radiation safety division of the Environment Ministry, Dr. Stelian Ghelberg, noted that his office worked on the regulations for three years in cooperation with the Ministries of Interior, Tourism, Health and Interior, the Union of Local Authorities, the Association of Owners of Banquet Halls and Gardens and the Association of Disk Jockeys. He added that implementation of the regulations will constitute a breakthrough in protecting the health of the public, which is considered to be a "captive audience" exposed to excessively high noise levels. ELECTIVE CESAREANS DANGEROUS Women who prefer to deliver their babies by cesarean section rather than normal vaginal birth - not for medical reasons but "convenience" or "less pain" - should think twice. Prof. Moshe Ben Ami, head of the obstetrics/gynecology department at Poriya Medical Center in Tiberias warns that the "fashion" of elective cesareans is dangerous. In the hospital's latest monthly journal, Ben Ami said the risk of death or complications to the infant is three times that with cesareans than with normal delivery. New research published in the journal Birth reported recently that a previous cesarean greatly increases the risk of maternal complications during a subsequent birth, including a tear in the uterus requiring its removal, harm to the mother's intestines and urinary tract and intestinal blockages. The risk of maternal death is three times higher after elective cesareans than after vaginal birth. The risk of hemorrhage is twice as high. In addition, the physiological changes that occur during a regular birth set off a beneficial process in the infant, including pressure that removes fluid from the lungs when the fetus moves through the birth canal. In addition, the important immediate bonding contact between mother and baby is delayed after a cesarean. Cesareans should be performed, Ben Ami declared, only when the mother or baby is at risk. MOST WORK ACCIDENTS PREVENTIBLE Some 60,000 Israeli workers suffer work accidents every year, and in 2006, 61 were killed. This was revealed by Varda Edwards, head of the work supervision branch of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment in a statement to mark Work Safety Day, observed recently worldwide. "We are involved in advancing health and safety in workplaces all year round," said Edwards, who added that tens of thousands of safety officers - at least one in each factory or other workplace - are on duty around the country. The majority of accidents can be prevented, she said. The ministry branch is working to increase employer awareness of the importance of ensuring a safe environment. Last year, 314 accidents were investigated (compared to 233 the previous year) and 593 people were authorized to be in charge of construction sites, in addition to the existing 11,105 on the job.