Speaking the Same Language on Noise Exposure

Quantifying noise exposure will be significantly easier thanks to a new set of common noise assessment methods. Comparable data on noise exposure in Europe is a prerequisite to set up EU policies to reduce noise pollution, a growing health and economic concern all over Europe.

The new methods – known as Common Noise Assessment Methods in Europe(CNOSSOS-EU) – were drawn up by the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre. They assess noise from road, rail and air traffic and from industry, and will provide consistent and comparable data on the noise levels to which people are exposed. Member States will have to start using the new methods for the next round of EU-wide strategic noise mapping in 2017.

The European Commission will use the common set of noise assessment methods developed by the JRC as a basis for the common methodology to obtain comparable figures on traffic (road, railway, aircraft) and industrial noise by end 2013. A common framework for noise assessment methods will allow comparable and reliable information to be gathered on noise levels and the associated health implications to which EU citizens are exposed. It will also facilitate the preparation of detailed action plans to prevent and reduce exposure to harmful levels of noise.

The Environmental Noise Directive, introduced in 2002, requires Member States to determine the exposure to environmental noise through strategic noise mapping and elaborate action plans for noise reduction. The first EU-wide noise mapping exercise in 2007 found considerable differences in assessment methods, data collection and quality.

Noise assessment models, based on state of the art scientific and technical know-how, were developed by the JRC in collaboration with experts nominated by the EU Member States, the European Environmental Agency, the European Aviation Safety Agency, and the World Health Organisation Europe.

Traffic-related noise may account for over 1 million healthy life years lost in Europe. Urbanisation and a steep increase in traffic are the main causes of escalating environmental noise exposure inEurope. The social costs of traffic, rail and road noise across the European Union were recently estimated at €40 billion per year, equivalent to 0.35% of the EU’s GDP. According to the European Commission’s 2011 White Paper on Transport, traffic noise-related external costs will be €20 billion higher per year by 2050 (compared to 2005) unless further action is taken.

Strategic noise maps are used by the EU national Competent Authorities to identify priorities for action planning and by the European Commission to provide global assessments of noise exposure across the EU. This information also serves to inform the general public about the levels of noise to which they are exposed, and about actions undertaken to reduce noise pollution to a level not harmful to public health and the environment. CNOSSOS-EU will help to produce good quality strategic noise maps by obtaining consistent and comparable figures on the noise levels to which people are exposed in Europe and to enable the reliable estimation of the associated burden of disease.

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