The numbers are alarming: at least every fifth European is exposed to harmful noise. And unfortunately, in the growing cities, it doesn’t get any quieter.
Environmental noise remains a common problem in Europe. For the second time since 2014, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has released a report on citizens’ noise pollution, which is a cause for concern. Accordingly, at least one in five Europeans is exposed to harmful noise in their surroundings.
The biggest source of noise remains road traffic both during the day and at night. An estimated 113 million people in Europe will have to cope with a noise level caused by cars beyond 55 decibels, the Copenhagen-based EU agency said. 22 million are affected by an unhealthy noise level from trains, four million from airplanes and one million from industrial noise. 55 decibels roughly corresponds to the volume of a conversation.
For millions of Europeans, this constant background noise in their environment is associated with health problems that can lead to death. Around 6.5 million Europeans suffer from severe sleep disorders due to the noise. Long-term environmental noise causes 12,000 premature deaths annually, according to the EEA.
Despite greater efforts to reduce pollution, the number of troubled citizens has not decreased since the first such survey in 2014. The EU target of a significant noise reduction by 2020 will, therefore, be missed, according to EEA noise expert Eulalia Peris. There are numerous options, such as replacing older asphalt surfaces and reducing inner-city traffic to 30 kilometers per hour.
The burden is particularly high in southern Europe. While in Germany fewer percentages suffer from high levels of road traffic noise, in Italy almost two out of three urban people are affected. According to the experts, it will not get any quieter in the future either. With the growth of cities and the growing demand for mobility, the number of Europeans who are exposed to excessive noise will continue to increase in the coming years.