More than 125 million Europeans could be exposed to levels of road traffic noise above legal guidelines. This causes a range of health problems, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), released on 19 December 2014.

The effects of noise are particularly widespread. For the one in four Europeans exposed to noise levels above the EU’s threshold for assessment and action, there are both direct and indirect health effects, the report states. Traffic noise annoys almost 20 million Europeans and disturbs the sleep of an estimated eight million. Environmental noise is also linked to approximately 43 000 hospital admissions, 900 000 cases of hypertension and up to 10 000 premature deaths per year, the EEA estimates.

Other main findings

  • Road traffic is the main source of noise in Europe, the report says, followed by railways, airports and industry.
  • Larger cities are noisier. Cities housing more than 250 000 people generally have a larger share of the population exposed to levels above the legal guidelines.
  • Noise considerations should be incorporated into planning and building new infrastructure according to the report. Moreover, quiet areas should be protected.
  • Wildlife may also be seriously affected by noise, according to a mounting body of evidence.

Source: European Environment Agency

Report available for download below