You are here:

Noise and Health

Health effects of prolonged exposure to environmental noise pollution

At the time of the adoption of the END (European Union Directive 2002/49/EC), the legislators included in the Directive an obligation for the European Commission to adapt its Annexes I, II and III to technical and scientific progress, notably to establish common noise assessment methods (Annex II) and methods for assessing harmful effects of noise by means of dose-effect relations (Annex III).

Following the Parma Declaration on Environment and Health adopted at the Fifth Ministerial Conference (2010), the Ministers and representatives of Member States in the WHO European Region requested the WHO to develop updated guidelines on environmental noise. These guidelines would provide evidence-based policy guidance to Member States on protecting human health from noise originating from transportation (road traffic, railway and aircraft), wind turbine noise, and leisure noise.

The Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region published by WHO in October 2018 provide robust public health advice underpinned by evidence to drive policy action that will protect communities from the adverse effects of noise. The comprehensive process of developing the guidelines has followed a rigorous methodology and involved several groups of experts and stakeholders. Through their relevance for urban, transport and energy policies, these guidelines contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and support the WHO vision of creating resilient communities and supportive environments in the European Region.

The guidelines provide policy guidance to Member States that is compatible with the noise indicators used in the END and will steer the on-going revision of Annex III of END to define what exposure–response relationships should be used to assess the effect of noise on populations for a set of health endpoints such as cardiovascular disease, annoyance and sleep disturbance.

From an Irish context the EPA funded Noise-Health research project is assessing the noise-health relationship in an international and national context. The project team will develop a 'how to' guide for policymakers which will provide guidance on how noise-health considerations can be integrated into key relevant areas of related policy including: (1) Health; (2) Environment; (3) Transportation, and (4) Planning.