Long-term exposure to environmental noise in Europe contributes to 48.000 new cases of heart disease and 12.000 premature deaths per year. Noise pollution causes severe sleep disturbance for 6.5 million people and affects children’s reading comprehension and learning.
The European Environmental Agency published a report on noise pollution that showed at least 20% of the continent’s population lives in areas where traffic noise levels are harmful to health. In daytime, 113 million people are exposed to road noise, the main element, of which 81.7 million in urban areas. Nighttime figures are lower.
Noise pollution contributes to 12.000 early deaths every year and sleep disturbance alone takes away a total of 437.000 disability-adjusted years of life. The category is a combination of years lost due to premature mortality and due to living with damaged health. One million healthy years of life are lost overall due to noise.
Cyprus is Europe’s most affected country
There are 22 million people exposed to railroad noise, according to the data gathered in 2017, which excludes the Western Balkans and Turkey.
Cyprus has the highest share of urban population exposed to road traffic noise above 55 decibels in daytime and in mapped areas – 49.2%. Switzerland is a distant second with 30.8%, followed by Bulgaria, where the level is at 28.8%.
Anthropogenic noise impacts a wide variety of wildlife as well
Portugal is ranked the highest, with just 5.2%. In the region tracked by Balkan Green Energy News, all other countries are under 10% except for Romania – 13.3%. In rural areas, Greece fares the best as only 0.2% of the population is estimated to be exposed to loud road traffic.
Exposure is probably underestimated
EEA said exposure is probably even underestimated, adding noise is also a major factor for ischaemic heart disease, contributing to 48.000 new cases every year. There are 6.5 million people suffering high sleep disturbance, the report reads. More than 12.000 schoolchildren suffer learning impairments just from aircraft noise.
Humans affect a wide variety of terrestrial and marine wildlife species with noise, possibly leading to a reduction in reproductive success and increasing mortality and emigration. At least 19% of nature protection areas covered under Natura 2000 are located in areas with excessive noise from road, railway and aircraft traffic.