European Commission, Environment DG

Links between noise and air pollution and socioeconomic status


Courtesy of Courtesy of European Commission, Environment DG

Air pollution and noise pollution have a negative impact on all of society — but some groups are more affected than others. Lower socioeconomic status is generally associated with poorer health, and both air and noise pollution contribute to a wide range of other factors influencing human health. But do these health inequalities arise because of increased exposure to pollution, increased sensitivity to exposure, increased vulnerabilities, or some combination? This In-depth Report presents evidence on whether people in deprived areas are more affected by air and noise pollution — and suffer greater consequences — than wealthier populations.

Air and noise pollution have many of the same sources, such as heavy industry, aircraft, railways and road vehicles. Research suggests that the social cost of noise and air pollution in the EU — including death and disease — could be nearly €1 trillion. For comparison, the social cost of alcohol in the EU has been estimated to be €50-120 billion and smoking at €544 billion.

Air pollution and noise pollution have negative health impacts on all socioeconomic groups, rich and poor. However, the risks may not be evenly shared; it is often society’s poorest who live and work in the most polluted environments. Furthermore, these same people may be more impacted by pollution’s damaging effects than more advantaged groups of society

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