Population exposure to environmental noise

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: TERM 005 , CSI 051
Created 09 Dec 2016 Published 22 Feb 2017 Last modified 27 Feb 2017
This indicator presents the estimated number of people exposed to harmful levels of environmental noise from industry, from roads with more than 3 million vehicles per year, railways with more than 30 000 railway movements per year, airports with more than 50 000 air traffic movements per year and in urban areas with more than 100 000 inhabitants.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Rationale

Justification for indicator selection

Exposure to noise from transport sources and industry can lead to annoyance, stress reactions, sleep disturbance and an increase in the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Environmental noise causes at least 10 000 premature deaths in Europe each year, with almost 20 million adults suffering from annoyance and a further 8 million suffering sleep disturbance. The World Health Organisation has identified noise as the second most significant environmental cause of ill health, the first being air pollution. The EU Seventh Environment Action Programme includes the objective of significantly decreasing noise pollution by 2020, moving closer to WHO recommended levels.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

This indicator presents the estimated number of people exposed to harmful levels of environmental noise from industry, from roads with more than 3 million vehicles per year, railways with more than 30 000 railway movements per year, airports with more than 50 000 air traffic movements per year and in urban areas with more than 100 000 inhabitants.

Units

Lden      Long-term average indicator designed to assess annoyance and defined by the Environmental Noise Directive (END). It refers to an annual average day, evening and night period of exposure.

Lnight       Long-term average indicator designed to assess sleep disturbance and defined by the END. It refers to an annual average night period of exposure.

dB       Shortened reference to the decibel, a unit of measurement for sound.

Policy context and targets

Context description

The END is the main EU instrument through which land-based noise emissions are monitored and actions developed. It defines environmental noise as ‘unwanted or harmful outdoor sound created by human activities, including noise emitted by means of transport, road traffic, rail traffic, air traffic and from sites of industrial activity’. It places an obligation on EU Member States to assess noise levels by producing strategic noise maps for all major roads, railways, airports and urban areas. Based on these noise-mapping results, Member States must prepare action plans containing measures that address noise issues and their effects for those areas where the specific END indicators (i.e. 55 dB averaged across the day, evening and night periods (Lden) and 50 dB averaged across the night period (Lnight)) have been exceeded. The Directive neither sets limit values for noise exposure, nor prescribes measures for inclusion in the action plans. Finally, Member States are required to select and preserve areas of good acoustic environmental quality, referred to as quiet areas, in order to protect the European soundscape.

High noise levels are defined in the Seventh Environmental Action Programme as noise levels for Lden above 55 dB and for Lnight above 50 dB. During the night, high noise levels can cause sleep disturbance, such as body movements and wakening, starting at Lnight levels below 40 dB, and with effects on the cardiovascular system that become apparent above 55 dB. All these impacts can contribute to premature mortality and the WHO has set a Night Noise Guideline level for Europe at 40dB Lnight.

Targets

The European Union’s current Seventh Environment Action Programme contains the objective that by 2020, noise pollution in the EU will have significantly decreased, moving closer to WHO recommended levels. In order to achieve this objective, an updated EU noise policy aligned with the latest scientific knowledge must be implemented along with measures to reduce noise at source, including improvements in city design. 

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Key policy question

What is the extent of noise pollution in Europe?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

This indicator is based upon data reported by EEA member countries in accordance with Directive 2002/49/EC. 

Methodology for gap filling

The indicator is based on data officially reported by countries under the EU Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC). Due to gaps in the reported data, a gap-filling routine is used to estimate the total population exposure to high noise levels. A technical note to the EEA on forecasting ENDRM DF4_8 data to 2020, 2030 and 2050 (Extrium 2013) is accessible here.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

Lack of a common assessment methodology means that comparability between datasets is not guaranteed. 

Data sets uncertainty

Data reported in accordance with Directive 2002/49/EC may not be complete.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Colin Nugent

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
TERM 005
CSI 051
Specification
Version id: 2

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 5 years

Classification

DPSIR: State
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100