1. Harmful noise pollution impacts 60 million Europeans at home

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    Source: Mayor.eu, Tzvetozar Vincent Iolov

    The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) releases figures obtained from the study of 749 continental cities, projecting potential health detriment.

    ISGlobal recently shared its noise pollution findings via the Environment International Journal, highlighting that 60 million people across Europe are negatively impacted by noise pollution. View the full breakdown of observed cities here.

    The main cause of environmental noise in urban areas is road traffic, with previous research linking high levels of sustained environmental noise to a range of health impacts. Such impacts include a sustained stress response, in which stress hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure, and vasoconstriction. With time, such reactions may lead to chronic illnesses including depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases. Even with this in mind, it is still surprising to learn of a further conclusion in the study: if cities committed to complying with World Health Organisation (WHO) noise-level guidelines, 3,600 ischaemic heart disease deaths could be prevented annually.

    Of the 123 million adults that partook in the study, 48% were exposed to levels of environmental noise that averaged above 53 decibels in any given 24 hour period, exceeding guidelines by the WHO. Furthermore, 11 million adults admitted to being highly annoyed by road traffic noise, heightening associated stress levels.

    It should be noted that results are not fully comprehensive and standardized as varying methodologies and datasets were utilized in the study. However, there can be no doubt that this extensive noise pollution study provides insight into a worrying traffic trend.

  2. Europe’s 10 noisiest cities revealed

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    Source: TheMayor.eu

    Noise pollution in cities across Europe continues at a dangerous level, with the potential to significantly impact citizens’ health.

    British-based financial service provider money.co.uk has recently published a ranking of European cities based on noise level. The findings were calculated taking into account population density, Mimi noise pollution score, land and air traffic, and congestion. The final rankings were:

    1. Paris, France – Score: 8.40
    2. London, United Kingdom – Score: 8.21
    3. Rome, Italy – Score: 4.96
    4. Madrid, Spain – Score: 4.69
    5. Barcelona, Spain – Score: 4.55
    6. Manchester, United Kingdom – Score: 4.40
    7. Vienna, Austria – Score: 4.33
    8. Berlin, Germany – Score: 3.66
    9. Birmingham, United Kingdom – Score: 3.64
    10. Milan, Italy – Score: 3.41

    Long-term exposure to levels of noise pollution this high may lead to a range of health consequences including noise-induced hearing loss, sleep deprivation, increased stress and blood pressure, and cognitive impairment in children. With such a range of detrimental effects, reducing the level of noise pollution in our largest urban areas is key to securing population health. The question remains, how can this be achieved, and what role could light electric vehicles be set to play?

  3. European Environment Agency: Noise Pollution Expected to Increase

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    Road traffic is the top source of noise pollution in Europe, the new EEA report ‘Noise in Europe – 2020’ says, with noise levels projected to rise in both urban and rural areas over the next decade due to urban growth and increased demand for mobility. Rail, aircraft and industry round up the other top sources of environmental noise pollution.

    The EEA’s report provides an update of noise pollution trends over the 2012-2017 period. It also provides an outlook of future noise projections as well as the associated health impacts in Europe, based on new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on the health effects from exposure to noise. Building on the previous EEA assessment of noise in Europe from 2014, the report also looks at actions being taken to manage and reduce noise exposure and reviews progress made to meet the EU objectives on noise pollution set by EU legislation, including the Environmental Noise Directive and the EU’s 7th Environmental Action Programme (EAP).

    Significant health impacts

    Long-term exposure to noise has significant health impacts. On the basis of the new WHO information, the EEA estimates that such exposure causes 12,000 premature deaths and contributes to 48,000 new cases of ischemic heart disease (caused by a narrowing of heart arteries) per year across Europe. It is also estimated that 22 million people suffer chronic high annoyance and 6.5 million people suffer chronic high sleep disturbance. According to World Health Organization evidence, these health impacts start to occur below the reporting thresholds set by the EU Noise Directive and so are likely to be underestimated. In addition, the information provided by countries under the EU directive does not cover all urban areas, roads, railways and airports.

    22 million people are exposed to high levels of railway noise, 4 million to high levels of aircraft noise and less than 1 million to high levels of noise caused by industries.

    Apart from affecting humans, noise pollution is also a growing threat to wildlife both on land and in water. Noise can reduce reproductive success and increase mortality and the fleeing of animals to quieter areas.

    EU objective for 2020 on noise will not be achieved

    While some progress has been made by EU Member States in mapping and reporting more areas of high noise across Europe, overall policy objectives on environmental noise have not yet been achieved. Notably, the objective set for 2020 by the 7th Environmental Action Programme of decreasing noise pollution and moving towards the WHO recommended levels for noise exposure will not be achieved. Noise pollution is projected to increase because of future urban growth and increased demand for mobility.

    More than 30 % of data required under the EU directive is still not available after the legally set 2017 reporting deadline. Significant delays suggest that countries may not have taken the necessary steps to address noise pollution. The report adds that better implementation is also required — a point reinforcing the conclusions of a separate recent European Commission assessment on the implementation of the directive.

    Actions to reduce noise levels

    Countries are already taking a variety of actions to reduce and manage noise levels, however, it remains difficult to evaluate their benefits in terms of positive health outcomes, the EEA report says. Examples of the most popular measures to reduce noise levels in cities include replacing older paved roads with smoother asphalt, better management of traffic flows and reducing speed limits to 30 kilometres per hour. There are also measures aimed at raising awareness and changing people’s behaviour in using less-noisy modes of transport like cycling, walking or electric vehicles.

    A significant number of countries, cities and regions have also put in place so-called quiet areas, most of which are parks and other green spaces, where people can go to escape city noise. The report says more needs to be done to create and protect quiet areas outside of the city and improve accessibility of these areas in cities.

    Background on the EU’s Environmental Noise Directive

    People’s exposure to noise is monitored under the Environmental Noise Directive (END) against two reporting thresholds; an indicator for the day, evening and night period (Lden) that measures exposure to noise levels associated with ‘annoyance’ and an indicator for night periods (Lnight) that is designed to assess sleep disturbance. These reporting thresholds are higher than the WHO recommended values and currently, there is no mechanism in place for tracking progress against the latter lower values.

    Find the report here

    Photo credits: @chairulfajar on Unsplash

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