Noise pollution is a major environmental health concern in Europe. It is caused by noise coming from a variety of sources and is widely present not only in the busiest urban environments but increasingly in once natural environments. The adverse effects on those exposed to noise pollution include threats to the well-being of human populations, the deteriorating health and distribution of wildlife on land and in the sea, the decreased abilities of our children to learn properly at school and the high economic price society must pay as a result.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified traffic noise, including road, rail and air traffic, as the second most important cause of ill health in Western Europe, behind only air pollution caused by very fine particulate matter1,2

Prolonged exposure to environmental noise can lead to negative cardiovascular and metabolic effects, reduced cognitive performance in children as well as severe annoyance and sleep disturbance3. Long-term exposure to environmental noise is estimated to cause 12.000 premature deaths and to contribute to 48.000 new cases of ischemic heart disease per year in the European territory. It is estimated that 22 million people suffer chronic high annoyance and 6.5 million people suffer chronic high sleep disturbance. As a result of aircraft noise, 12500 schoolchildren are estimated to suffer learning impairment in school.

EU Policy     

Emissions of noise at source have been regulated in the EU for many years. Maximum noise limits for motor vehicles, household appliances and outdoor equipment date back to the 1970s. More recently, measures to control noise from operations and airports, and the regulation of industrial facilities’ noise levels have broadened the control of environmental noise.

The introduction of the Environmental Noise Directive (END) in 2002 sought to monitor the effectiveness of EU emission controls by requiring the assessment of environmental noise at Member State level. The Directive introduced two key indicators for annoyance and sleep disturbance, which, if exceeded, require action plans to be drawn up that are designed to reduce exposure and protect areas not yet polluted by noise.

The EU’s Seventh Environmental Action Programme (7th EAP) highlights the fact that a majority of Europeans living in major urban areas are exposed to high levels of noise at which adverse health effects frequently occur. The 7th EAP further 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, and measures to reduce noise at source, including improvements in city design should be implemented.


EEA Activities

Noise emissions is a priority work area in the mandate of the EEA. Most of the current activities relate to data reporting and assessment as required by the END.

The Electronic Noise Data Reporting Mechanism was devised by the EEA in 2007 in order to facilitate the reporting of noise data in line with the principles set out in the Shared Environmental Information System for Europe and in accordance with the specifications for a spatial data infrastructure for Europe.

In assisting with the implementation of the END, the EEA works closely with the European Topic Centreon Air Pollution, Transport, Noise and Industrial pollution  and with EEA's country network, Eionet.

Data on noise exposure and associated action plans reported in accordance with the END have been used to make an assessment of environmental Noise in Europe.

The same data are available for download via the EEA data service and can be viewed interactively on the EEA Noise Observation and Information Service for Europe, which also presents noise contour maps for major sources and cities in Europe.

Country specific fact sheets illustrating END data and estimating the likely health impacts due to noise in EEA member countries have also been published.

The EEA has also used END data to make an assessment of the likely extent of areas yet to be affected by noise pollution in a report entitled Quiet Areas in Europe.



1. Hänninen, O., et al., 2014, ‘Environmental Burden of Disease in Europe: Assessing Nine Risk Factors in Six Countries’, Environmental Health Perspectives 122(5), pp. 439-446 (DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1206154).

2. WHO and JRC, 2011,Burden of disease from environmental noise — quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland accessed 5 May 2014.

3. WHO, 2018,WHO environmental noise guidelines for the European region, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen accessed 7 December 2018.



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