Noise is a ubiquitous phenomenon in our current society. From shrieking sirens to vehicles moving on highways and planes flying overhead, noise has become more common than ever in our daily lives. It is important to note that prolonged exposure to traffic noise is not only annoying but can also negatively impact our physical and mental health.
Noise can be extremely annoying for many people. Noise from airplanes, vehicle horns, or garbage trucks can significantly increase noise levels fatigue. Especially at night, it is understandable that most want to maintain a calm environment and enjoy restful sleep.
It’s true that living in the city can mean being constantly exposed to noise. This is particularly common in Europe where many residents have to contend with constant ambient noise which can have adverse effects on their health.
How environmental noise affects health
Traffic noise in Europe is an issue that deserves special attention, as it adversely affects the health and well-being of a fifth of its population. The constant long-term traffic noise is more than just annoying. It is scientifically proven that excessive consumption can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes. These effects are known and thoroughly studied by medical experts.
While European-wide efforts have been made to address noise pollution, such as noise level control, progress has unfortunately been slow overall.
According to the latest assessment by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on zero pollution, it is estimated that at least 18 million people in the EU suffer from a high degree of discomfort due to prolonged exposure to transport noise. In addition, it is estimated that 5 million people have significant difficulty falling asleep due to this problem. Prolonged exposure to noise is estimated to be linked to around 41,000 new cases of heart disease and around 11,000 premature deaths each year in Europe.
It is important to note that the numbers provided may be underreported. This is because the information provided by EU Member States does not cover all urban areas, roads, railways and airports or all noise sources. Therefore, it is possible that there are more cases of noise pollution than those officially reported.
So how do we turn down the volume?
The European Union is implementing new measures to tackle the noise problem. The European Commission’s Zero Pollution Action Plan has the main objective of reducing the number of people chronically affected by transport noise by 30% by 2030, compared to the levels recorded in 2017.
To achieve this goal, the number of extremely annoying people in the European Union would need to be reduced by 5.3 million. However, this could prove challenging as the total number of people exposed to harmful noise levels has remained stable over the past decade. A report on the implementation of the Environmental Noise Directive has recently been published. According to this report, achieving the ambition of eliminating noise completely will require further action at local, national and even EU level.
Both local and national authorities have taken multiple measures to reduce and control noise. There are various initiatives to reduce road noise and improve the driving experience. Some examples include replacing old paved roads with smoother, quieter asphalt, lowering speed limits, redesigning travel routes, and upgrading trains with less noisy braking systems.
Reducing noise at source is key to achieving zero pollution. This involves taking steps to reduce noise from vehicles, tires and rail friction. Aircraft landing and take-off procedures also need to be improved. In this way you make a significant contribution to environmental protection.
A complete solution is needed
To effectively address mobility problems in cities, it is not enough to implement measures in isolation. Furthermore, it is crucial to implement robust urban and transport planning that promotes alternatives to road traffic on the roads. Furthermore, the use of artificial intelligence can also help raise awareness and motivate people to switch to quieter means of transport, such as cycling or walking.
In many places, both cities and regions, quiet areas have been created with the aim of giving people respite from urban noise. These areas, mostly parks and green spaces, give visitors the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a more peaceful environment. According to the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) Noise Report 2020, more steps need to be taken to create and protect quiet areas in rural areas, as well as improve access to quiet spaces within cities.
In a nutshell: noise pollution
Noise pollution is a constantly increasing problem in our environment. The main culprits are means of transport such as cars, planes and trains, which generate high levels of noise.
According to general data, around 20% of the European population is exposed to prolonged levels of noise which can have harmful effects on health.
The Zero Pollution Action Plan has set an ambitious target to combat noise pollution, but it is unlikely to be achieved in time. More efforts are needed to achieve this.
What can I do?
A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to stop driving and switch to active modes of transportation, like walking or cycling. Also, when driving, it is important to pay attention to your driving style and consider switching to an electric vehicle, which is not only more environmentally friendly but also more fuel-efficient.
If you are looking for a break from the urban bustle, I recommend looking for green and blue spaces or even going out into the countryside. These places offer tranquility and serenity, allowing you to relax and escape the noise of the city.
Make sure you check the noise levels in your area through the Noise Information and Observation Service for Europe (NOISE) provided by the European Environment Agency (EEA). This service provides you with information and observations about the noise in your environment, allowing you to take appropriate measures to ensure a healthier and quieter environment.
With information from eea.europa.eu