EU citizens overwhelmed by noise

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has launched the most comprehensive, up-to-date map of noise exposure in the 27 Member States, which reveals to what extent EU citizens are exposed to excessive acoustic pollution.

The NOISE (Noise Observation and Information Service for Europe) database provides, at the click of a mouse, a picture of the numbers of people exposed to noise generated by air, rail and road traffic across Europe and in 102 large urban agglomerations.

Noise is ubiquitous but its role as a key form of pollution with serious human health consequences is still underestimated. Prolonged exposure to even low levels of noise can trigger hypertension and disrupt sleep.

A first glance at Europe’s noise exposure map is far from soothing: it is estimated than half of the population in urban areas with more than 250 000 inhabitants endure levels above 55 dB Lden (the lower EU benchmark for an average 24-hour period) as a result of ambient road noise. Just over 41 million Europeans are exposed to excessive noise from road traffic alone in the largest cities.

Compiling information from 19 of the 32 EEA member countries, the NOISE database represents a major step towards a comprehensive pan-European service. Following the adoption of the Environmental Noise Directive (END), Member States were given until December 2007 to deliver relevant data. Users of the NOISE database can view the extent of data reported in accordance with the directive on a colour-coded map.

Adopted in 2002, the END aims to moderate noise exposure in built-up areas. The Directive also covers noise in public parks or other quiet areas in an agglomeration, in quiet areas in open country, and near schools, hospitals and other noise-sensitive buildings and areas. It does not apply to noise caused by residents or noise from domestic activities, noise at work places or inside means of transport.

Lden is an indicator of the overall noise level during the day, evening and night, which is used to convey the annoyance caused by noise exposure. Lnight is an indicator for the sound level during the night used to describe sleep disturbance. They are both used for mapping noise in Europe.


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