This indicator sets the baseline and shows the range and magnitude of chronic high annoyance and high sleep disturbance due to noise from transport in Europe. It presents the estimated number of people suffering long-term high annoyance and long-term high sleep disturbance due to noise from:
· roads with more than 3 million vehicle passages 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 and a population density such that the Member State consider it an urbanised area.
In accordance with the Environmental Noise Directive (END), countries report data for 55dB for the day-evening-night period and 50dB for the night-time period. Therefore, data on exposure to noise below these levels are not used in the indicator.
Methodology for indicator calculation
The indicator is based on the following data:
- Data reported by EU Member States in accordance with Directive 2002/49/EC (the END). In addition, a disaggregated assessment that includes EEA member countries (excluding Türkiye) is presented. The data used cover the population exposed to noise above END thresholds (i.e. noise levels of 55dB or higher during the day-evening-night period and to night-time noise levels of 50dB or higher) for the following noise sources: roads with more than 3 million vehicle passages per year; railways with more than 30,000 train passages per year; airports with more than 50,000 aircraft movements per year; and all roads, railways, airports and industries in urban areas with more than 100,000 inhabitants.
Exposure-response functions for high annoyance and high sleep disturbance presented in the Environmental noise guidelines for the European region. These are generalised functions and are in line with Annex III of the Environmental Noise Directive.
- Data on age distribution from Eurostat (ETC/ACM, 2018). The number of highly annoyed and highly sleep disturbed people is calculated from only the population over the age of 17 years because the exposure-response functions are based on responses from the adult population and cannot be extrapolated to children.
- For table 1, the calculation of ischemic heart disease incidence, premature deaths and DALYs are described in ETC/ACM (2018) and EEA (2020).
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. For instance, some countries map all streets in cities while others map only the busiest streets. A new, common noise calculation assessment method was introduced in 2019 and therefore the baseline data will be re-evaluated to address any comparability issues between 2017 and subsequent years.
Methodology for gap filling
Because of the incomplete reporting of 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.
Chronic exposure to environmental noise has significant impacts on physical and mental health. 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.
Environmental noise guidelines for the European region
The strongest base of evidence regarding cause-effect relationships between noise and health was published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe in the form of a guidance document Environmental noise guidelines for the European region. These guidelines also include recommendations for different types of transport sources. For instance, WHO recommends that long-term exposure to noise from road traffic should not exceed 53dB during the day-evening-night period and 45dB during the night to avoid adverse consequences on health. The recommended values for rail are 54dB during the day-evening-night period and 44dB during the night, and for aircraft they are 45dB during the day-evening-night period and 40dB during the night.
WHO’sEnvironmental noise guidelines for the European region consider long-term annoyance and sleep disturbance due to noise to be critical health outcomes. According to the WHO definition of health, which is ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’, documenting only physical health does not present a complete picture of general health. Therefore, being undisturbed by noise in all activities, including sleep, constitutes an asset worthy of protection. The importance of considering both annoyance and self-reported sleep disturbance as health outcomes is further supported by evidence indicating that they play a part in the causal pathway of noise-induced cardiovascular and metabolic diseases .
Environmental Noise Directive
The END provides the primary legislative framework for avoiding and preventing exposure to harmful levels of environmental noise through the reporting of noise mapping and action planning. 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 for levels above specific END threshold values (i.e. 55dB averaged across day-evening-night periods (Lden) and 50dB averaged across night-time periods (Lnight)). Based on these noise-mapping results, Member States must prepare action plans containing measures that address noise issues and their effects. 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.
One of the key targets of the European Commission’s zero pollution action plan is to reduce the share of people chronically disturbed by transport noise by 30% by 2030, compared with 2017.
None have been specified for this indicator.