Noise signals

Page Last modified 08 Dec 2022
3 min read
This section of the zero pollution monitoring assessment presents a series of short case studies that highlight additional sources of information on the impacts of noise pollution on health.

Noise Signal 1: Combined impacts of road traffic noise and air pollution in urban areas

Based on current evidence, noise and air pollution are the most significant environmental stressors in European cities and affect the health and well-being of the urban population. The relationships between each of these exposures and its impacts are usually studied separately. Although the combined impacts of noise and air pollution have not been extensively researched, multiple exposures may exacerbate the negative health effects.

Mapping the combined health risks and impacts of both forms of pollution deepens understanding of the areas that are better or worse for these. Interventions that reduce the adverse effects of both air pollution and road traffic noise can have a positive impact on many people and help with planning more liveable and sustainable cities. Map 1 shows that the health risks from combined road traffic noise and air pollution are high in most of the city area of Brussels.

Map 1. Health risks of combined road noise and air pollution (example of Brussels)

Source: EEA.

Click here for different chart formats and data


Noise Signal 2: Emerging evidence on the adverse health effects of noise

Long-term exposure to environmental noise can have severe adverse effects on human health. Updated in 2018, the WHO environmental noise guidelines for the European region help quantify the health risks of noise pollution. Driven by this new quantitative analysis, the EU has adopted a harmonised approach to calculating the health impacts of environmental noise by updating Annex III of the Environmental Noise Directive (END).

Currently, Annex III of the END considers only high levels of annoyance and high sleep disturbance and ischaemic heart disease as relevant factors for a noise health impact assessment. However, there is growing evidence that noise may have much wider impacts on people’s health and well-being. For instance, stress-related diseases such as mental health disorders, metabolic disease and cancer have been associated with long-term exposure to environmental noise. Some of the most recent comprehensive findings are summarised in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Growing evidence of the health impacts of noise

Figure 1. Growing evidence of the health impacts of noise



In addition, evidence is growing of the links between exposure to noise and certain other critical cardiovascular outcomes, such as heart failure and stroke (Roswall et al., 2021; Thacher et al., 2022).

To protect the EU’s population, the zero pollution action plan aims to reduce the number of people chronically disturbed by transport noise by 30% by 2030. Although this is an important step, emerging evidence (as seen in Figure 1) indicates that there are many more adverse health effects than merely ‘chronic disturbance’. Therefore, considering the additional health impacts from transport noise may be valuable in the future.



Cantuaria, M. L., et al., 2021, ‘Residential exposure to transportation noise in Denmark and incidence of dementia: national cohort study’, BMJ374, n1954 (

Hegewald, J., et al., 2020, ‘Traffic noise and mental health: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, International Journal for Environmental Research and Public Health 17(17), 6175 (

Pyko, A., et al., 2017, ‘Long-term exposure to transportation noise in relation to development of obesity — a cohort study’, Environmental Health Perspective125 (11), 117005 (

Roswall N., et al., 2021, ‘Long-term exposure to transportation noise and risk of incident stroke: a pooled study of nine Scandinavian cohorts’, Environmental Health Perspective 129(10), 107002 (

Seidler, A., et al., forthcoming, Einfluss des Lärms auf psychische Erkrankungen des Menschen, Umweltbundesamt, Dessau-Roßlau (in press).

Sørensen, M., et al., 2021, ‘Road and railway noise and risk for breast cancer: a nationwide study covering Denmark’, Environmental Research 195, 110739

Sørensen, M., et al., 2015, ‘Residential exposure to traffic noise and risk for non-hodgkin lymphoma among adults’, Environmental Research 142, pp. 61-65 (

Thacher, J. D., 2022, ‘Exposure to transportation noise and risk for cardiovascular disease in a nationwide cohort study from Denmark’, Environmental Research, 211, 113106 (

Zare Sakhvidi, M., et al., 2018, ‘Association between noise exposure and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, Environmental Research 166, pp. 647-657 (

Cover image source: © Evangelija Ivanoska, Well with Nature /EEA


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