Harmful levels of road traffic noise affect one in four people in Europe and raise health risks ranging from sleepless nights to heart disease, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has stated.according to Reuters news service. More than 900,000 cases of hypertension can be traced to noise.
In EEA’s first assessment of the impact of noise pollution in Europe, it reported that high volumes undermine children’s concentration in some schools and disrupts nature, for example by drowning out the songs birds use to attract mates.
“Noise pollution is a major environmental health problem in Europe,” the EEA report said, adding that what it called the “European soundscape” is under threat.
The Copenhagen-based EEA, a European Union agency, said traffic was the main source of noise above legal guidelines and affected about 125 million people, a quarter of the EU population. Railways, airports and industrial sites added to the din.
The EEA estimated that environmental noise caused up to 10,000 premature deaths in Europe every year.
Almost 20 million adults felt “annoyance” at noise pollution and another eight million suffered disturbed sleep, the EEA said.
The World Health Organization also says that noise is an under-estimated threat.
The EEA findings indicate that Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belgium have urban areas with the highest percentages of people exposed to high road noise levels; Malta, Iceland and Germany are the quietest.
The report calls for better planning, ranging from preserving quiet areas in cities to less noisy vehicle tires.
In a 2011 report, the European Commission estimated noise from road and rail traffic cost 40-billion euros a year ($47,155,800,000) in terms of depressed prices for property along noisy roads, medical bills and lower productivity at work.