One in five Europeans exposed to harmful noise pollution – study [The Guardian, 05/03/20]

One in five Europeans are exposed to harmful levels of noise pollution, and this number is set to rise in the next decade, with road traffic the biggest culprit, a new study has shown.

Excessive noise can cause physical and mental illness, and is associated with higher levels of heart disease, stress and sleeplessness. About 12,000 premature deaths are caused by noise in Europe each year, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA), while noise contributes to about 48,000 cases of ischaemic heart disease.

Wildlife is also affected: a study last year showed noise hampers birds’ ability to communicate, and can stop them from mating.

The EEA, Europe’s environmental watchdog, warned in a report on Thursday that more people were likely to be affected by harmful noise levels in future, as the result of increasing urbanisation and mobility.

Across Europe, an estimated 113 million people are affected by road traffic noise levels above 55 decibels, the threshold at which noise becomes harmful to human health by the World Health Organization’s definition.

In addition, 22 million people are exposed to high levels of railway noise and 4 million people to high levels of aircraft noise. At least 12,500 European schoolchildren are estimated to suffer learning impairment because of aircraft noise.

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