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Environment and health aspects of noise assessments EIONET workshop on noise EEA, Copenhagen, 26-27 June 2007. Population concerns about noise. Figure A. EU-15 proportion of population living in households considering that they suffer from noise and from pollution (%). A. B.

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Environment and health aspects of noise assessments EIONET workshop on noiseEEA, Copenhagen, 26-27 June 2007

Population concerns about noise

Figure A. EU-15 proportion of population living in households

considering that they suffer from noise and from pollution (%)



Figure B. Proportion of population living in households considering

that they suffer from noise and from pollution, by country (2000) (%)

Eurostat, 2006. Measuring progress towards more sustainable Europe.SD indicators for the EU, data 1990-2005

Human impacts of environmental noise

  • Environmental noise affects people’s health and well being as it interferes with basic activities such as:

    • sleeping

    • resting

    • studying

    • communicating

  • There is growing evidence that environmental noise is not merely an annoyance, but has a range of adverse health, social and economic effects

What are the effects of environmental noise ?

  • Hearing impairment, tinnitus

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Interference with the spoken communication

  • Disturbances in mental health

  • Impaired task performance

  • Negative social behaviour and annoyance reactions

  • Cardiovascular disturbances

Grading of noise effects on health





Pathophysiological changes

Physiological changes of unknown consequences



Number of exposed individuals

Babisch, 2002, adapted from Wichmann,1992

The scheme for noise effect reactions

Babisch, 2002

Impacts of noise are enhanced by interactions with other environmental stressors, such as

air pollution and chemicals

Causal web of noise impacts on health

Causal framework linking multiple risk factors and outcomes

  • Components of causal web:

    • Distal and proximal causes

    • Social and behavioural determinants

    • Pathophysiological pathway

    • Outcomes

    • Linkages among factors and outcomes

    • Action points for intervention

Causal web of impacts of environmental noise

  • R. Kim, WHO, EURO ECEH. Workshop on EBD, EEA, September 2006

Concerns on environmental noise in Europe

  • Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC 2002)

    • assessment and management of environmental noise

    • action plans to reduce harmful effects of noise exposure

    • The EU Sixth Environmental Action Programme

    • the aim to ‘substantially reducing the number of people regularly affected by long-term average levels of noise, in particular from traffic, which …cause detrimental effects on human health’

    • Children’s Environmental Health Action Plan for Europe (WHO, 2004)

    • … children should be protected from exposure to harmful noise at home and at school (RPG IV)

‘Europe’s Environment: the 4th assessment’ - report prepared by EEA for the Ministerial Conference, Belgrade, 2007

‘Noise – an emerging environmental health concern’ included in Chapter 2: ‘Environment and health and quality of life’

Noise in Belgrade report – country examples

  • Spain:

  • 41 % of the surveyed people feel highly disturbed by traffic noise

  • Norway:

  • noise annoyance for road traffic increased by 5 % from 1999 to 2003

  • 5 % of the population have noise-related sleep problems

  • Germany:

  • 60 % of the population annoyed by road traffic noise; 10 % highly annoyed

  • 3 % of acute myocardial infarctions per year attributed to road traffic noise

  • The Netherlands:

  • 29 % of the national survey respondents severely annoyed by road traffic

  • 12 % severely annoyed by noise form air traffic and neighbors;

  • increasing need for quieter residential areas from 8 % (1993) to 10 % (2004)

Europe’s Environment: the 4th assessment, EEA, 2007

Temporary hearing deficiencies caused by noise of German children

Noise in the Belgrade report- summary

Several countries have national or local estimates of noise exposure and the associated health effects

Compared to noise from neighbours and industry, a lot of people are severely annoyed by noise from transport‑related sources

Due to differences in the measurement of annoyance and definition of sources, only an indicative comparison between countries and regions is now possible

Estimating impacts of environmental noise in Europe

The overall burden of ill health due to noise in Europe has not yet been quantified

However, there are ongoing projects aiming to provide estimates of noise impacts on health as well as methodological guidance

WHO EBD project on noise impacts

  • The project aims to provide:

    • a guidance to the Member States on the estimation of burden of disease

    • related to environmental noise

    • preliminary estimates of environmental burden of diseases (EBD) due to environmental noise in Europe

  • Definition of environmental noise for the project:

    • non-occupational, traffic noise from road, train, air, and leisure noise

  • Health outcomes considered:

    • cardiovascular disease

    • cognitive impairment

    • hearing loss, tinnitus

    • sleep disturbance, annoyance

  • Final report expected by the end of 2007

  • R. Kim, WHO, EURO ECEH. Workshop on EBD, EEA, September 2006

Conceptual basis for EBD assessment

Based on available data on distribution of exposure to noise in the population and exposure-response relationship, the population attributable risks (impact fraction) are calculated for specific health outcomes, and applied to the global burden of disease, expressed as DALYs (disability adjusted life years)

  • WHO, EURO ECEH, 2006


Population distribution of exposure

  • lack of accurate exposure data in the countries and sub-regions leads to inaccurate impact fraction

  • noise mapping data for Environmental Noise Directive

  • lack of gender- and age-specific exposure data

  • use of uniform exposure indicators (eg. Lden)

    Exposure-risk relationship

    Interaction with other environmental factors

    Problem of extrapolating exposure and attributable fractions between countries

  • R. Kim, WHO, EURO ECEH. Workshop on EBD, EEA, September 2006

WHO Night Noise Guidelinesfor Europe

Provide ‘health-based’ guidance to interprete exposure data

Linked to the END - relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise

Extension of WHO Guidelines for Community Noise (2000)

Recommend interim targets for gradual achievements of the ultimate targets depending on the national priorities and situations.

The threshold levels of Lnight are:

30 dB - Night Noise Guideline (NNGL)

40 dB - Interim Target I (IT-I)

55 dB - Interim Target II (IT-II)

Publication of the Guidelines is expected in September 2007

  • WHO EURO, ECEH, 2007

Health Impact Assessment of noise

  • Activities within the WHO coordinated ENHIS project

  • Case study: HIA for children aged up to 14 years, who live in proximity to traffic noise

  • Coverage: two cities in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

  • Preliminary findings:

    • approximately 5% of children highly disturbed in their sleep due to traffic noise

    • between 5 - 10 % of all exposed children highly annoyed by road traffic noise

    • impossible extrapolation to the rest of North Rhine-Westphalia due to differences in exposure and population structure

Source: http://enhiscms.rivm.nl/object_document/o4638n27773.html

E&H indicator – Population exposed to various noise levelranges per source

  • Estimation on the number of people living in dwellings exposed from different sources of environmental noise in urban areas and along major transport infrastructures to specified ranges of values of Lden in dB, 4 m above the ground on the most exposed façade:

  • Lden (day-evening-night equivalent level): 55-59, of Lden in dB;60-64, of Lden in dB; 65-69, of Lden in dB 70-74, of Lden in dB; >75 of Lden in dB; separately for road, rail and air traffic, and for industrial sources

  • Lnight (night equivalent level) : 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, >70; separately for road, rail and air traffic, and for industrial sources

Source: ECOEHIS, 2004

Implementation of END and better, comparable exposure information in the EU member states is expected to improve assessments of impacts of environmental noise on health and well-being, and to better target actions to protect population health

Thank you for your attention

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