Noise pollution is a growing environmental concern. It is caused by a varied number of sources and is widely present not only in the busiest urban environments, it is also pervading once natural environments. The adverse effects can be found in the well-being of exposed human populations, in the health and distribution of wildlife on the land and in the sea, in the abilities of our children to learn properly at school and in the high economic price society must pay because of noise pollution. The European soundscape is under threat and this report sets out to quantify the scale of the problem, assess what actions are being taken and to scope those that may need to be considered in the future, in order to redress the problem.
The key messages from this report are:
- noise pollution is a major environmental health problem in Europe;
- road traffic is the most dominant source of environmental noise with an estimated 125 million people affected by noise levels greater than 55 decibels (dB) Lden (day‑evening‑night level);
- environmental noise causes at least 10 000 cases of premature death in Europe each year;
- almost 20 million adults are annoyed and a further 8 million suffer sleep disturbance due to environmental noise;
- over 900 000 cases of hypertension are caused by environmental noise each year;
- noise pollution causes 43 000 hospital admissions in Europe per year;
- effects of noise upon the wider soundscape, including wildlife and quiet areas, need further assessment;
- political ambitions are high with the European Union's (EU) Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) containing the objective that noise pollution in the EU has significantly decreased by 2020, moving closer to World Health Organization (WHO) recommended levels;
- a complete assessment and future outlook are hindered by the fact that exposure estimates reported by countries are not complete, with as little as 44 % of the expected amount of data, depending on source, being delivered in the latest reporting round;
- lack of comparable and common assessment methods often causes significant inconsistencies in exposure estimates, between different countries, within a single country and across the two main reporting rounds.