This indicator presents the estimated number of people exposed to harmful levels of environmental noise from industry, roads with more than 3 million vehicles per year, railways with more than 30,000 railway movements per year and airports with more than 50,000 air traffic movements per year, and in urban areas with more than 100,000 inhabitants. In accordance with the lowest available values used in noise mapping for measuring noise pollution under the END, 55 dB for the day-evening-night period and 50 dB for the night-time period were used as threshold values for the indicator.
This indicator is based on data reported by EU Member States in accordance with Directive 2002/49/EC (the END). In addition, we present a disaggregated assessment for road traffic noise which includes EEA member countries (excluding Turkey) plus the United Kingdom. The data used cover noise sources such as roads with more than 3 million vehicle passages a year, railways with more than 30 000 train passages per year and airports with more than 50,000 aircraft movements per year, as well as all roads, railways, airports and industries in urban areas with more than 100,000 inhabitants. The indicator mainly focuses on the number of people exposed to noise levels of 55 dB or higher during the day-evening-night period and to night-time noise levels of 50 dB or higher. These reporting thresholds, i.e. 55 dB Lden and 50 dB Lnight, are above the thresholds recommended by the WHO (2018). This means that in reality more people may be exposed to unhealthy noise levels than those reported to be exposed on the basis of the current END thresholds.
It should be noted that, for the data presented in this indicator, countries have used a wide variety of calculation methods and approaches in developing their noise maps. Therefore, the results of the different countries or years generated by different prediction methods may not be fully comparable and therefore trends reported should be interpreted with caution.
To avoid the double counting of the population, the numbers of people exposed to noise are presented separately for each source in Figure 1.
Because of the incomplete reporting of the data by some countries, gap filling was performed to complete any missing information and ensure a full assessment of environmental noise in Europe. Detailed information on the gap-filling methodology can be found in ETC/ATNI (2021). Detailed completeness of the data by country can be seen in the EEA noise fact sheets. The following agglomerations in Figure 2 were modelled: Bruges; Charleroi; Liege; Nicosia; Limassol; Alicante; Baix Llobregat I; Barcelones I; Barcelones II; Cordoba; Gijon; Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; Malaga; Murcia; Palma de Mallorca; Santa Cruz de Tenerife; Sevilla; Valladolid; Zaragoza; Baix Llobregat II; Albacete; Alcorcon; Algeciras; Almeria; Cadiz; Castellon de la Plana; Dos Hermanas; Elche; Girones; Jaen; Leganes; Logrono; Marbella; Mostoles; Salamanca; San Cristobal de La Laguna; Tarragona; Torrejon de Ardoz; Valles Occidental I; Valles Occidental II; Parla; Telde; Bethune; Bordeaux; Clermont-Ferrand; Douai - Lens; Grenoble; Lille; Lyon; Marseille; Metz; Montpellier; Nancy; Nantes; Orleans; Rennes; Rouen; Toulon; Toulouse; Tours; Valenciennes; Avignon; Saint-Etienne; Amiens; Angers; Angouleme; Annecy; Bayonne; Besancon; Brest; Caen; Calais; Chambery; Dijon; Dunkerque; La Rochelle; Le Havre; Le Mans; Limoges; Lorient; Maubeuge; Montbeliard; Mulhouse; Nimes; Pau; Perpignan; Poitiers Reims; Saint-Nazaire; Thionville; Troyes; Valence; Annemasse; Arras; Aubergenville; Beauchamp; Cannes; Hénin-Beaumont; Lens; Orsay; Roissy-en-France; Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois; Torcy; Trappes; Versailles;; Naples; Perugia; Pescara; Salerno; Bergen; Galati; Targu Mures; Kosicka.
Chronic exposure to environmental noise has significant impacts on physical and mental health. The WHO has identified noise as the second most significant environmental cause of ill health in western Europe, the first being air pollution. Exposure to environmental noise can lead to annoyance, stress reactions, sleep disturbance, poor mental health and well-being, and cognitive impairment in children, and can have negative effects on the cardiovascular and metabolic systems.
In 2018, the WHO published new guidelines on environmental noise for the European region. These guidelines include recommendations for different types of transport sources. For instance, the WHO recommends that noise exposure from road traffic should not exceed 53 dB during the day-evening-night period and 45 dB during the night to avoid adverse consequences on health. The recommended values for rail are 54 dB during the day-evening-night period and 44 dB during the night. The recommendations for aircraft are that noise levels should not exceed 45 dB during the day-evening-night period and 40 dB during the night.
The END is the main EU instrument through which 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 areas where specific END threshold values (i.e. 55 dB averaged across day-evening-night periods (Lden) and 50 dB averaged across night-time periods (Lnight)) are exceeded. The END 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, to protect the European soundscape.
The EU’s 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. 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. One of the key commitments of the European Commission’s zero-pollution ambition is to reduce the share of people chronically disturbed by transport noise by 30% by 2030, compared with 2017.
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