The World Health Organisation has made strong recommendations for specific interventions to cut noise pollution from traffic and aircraft, in a landmark report published today. The WHO also recommends the involvement of local communities when new wind turbines are built, setting guidelines for noise from this quickly-developing energy source for the first time.
The European Environmental Bureau welcomes the WHO’s findings and calls on EU governments to act to protect people from the growing threat posed by noise pollution.
The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental organisations with around 140 members in over 30 countries.
Margherita Tolotto, EEB Air and Noise Policy Officer said:
“The WHO highlights what is now Europe’s second biggest environmental health threat – after air pollution. Luckily for policy makers, the solutions required to cut noise pollution will also help to tackle air pollution – and could also help to protect the climate too. The benefits of rethinking transport and building truly liveable cities are becoming increasingly hard to argue with.”
The World Health Organisation’s findings are based on research by two independent groups of experts using a rigorous scientific methodology. They investigated the impact of noise pollution on several health outcomes: cardiovascular and metabolic effects, annoyance, effects on sleep, cognitive impairment, hearing impairment and tinnitus, adverse birth outcomes, and quality of life, mental health and well-being. They also investigated the effectiveness of intervening to reduce noise on these outcomes.
The WHO makes “strong” recommendations – which include specific interventions to reduce exposure from road traffic and aircraft noise – are those where the science has proven a net benefit to society. The WHO says its strong recommendations, which also include action to reduce noise from railways, should be implemented “in most circumstances”.
There is a lower level of certainty about “conditional” recommendations – including those related to wind turbines and “leisure noise” (such as the music you hear in the gym, at a café or at live events). The WHO states that the preferences of individuals and populations affected mean there are circumstances where these recommendations would not apply.
“The WHO is unambiguous about the need to cut noise from traffic and aircraft – and the methods that should be used to achieve this. When it comes to wind turbines, or the noise from your favourite band at a concert, it’s right that the individuals affected are properly consulted and local preferences taken into account.”