White noise from crowded cities, the din of cars speeding along cobbled streets, neighbours arguing… Europeans are exposed to more and more noise which, experts say, is leading to stress and health problems. What is the EU doing about it?
Noise is generally recognised as a serious form of environmental pollution. According to the European Union's White Paper on ‘European transport policy for 2010', the lives of some 100 million Europeans are adversely affected by noise pollution, costing an estimated €10 billion annually.
|EU research tackles the huge problem of urban racket|
© Source: PhotoDisc
Through its Sixth Framework Programme for research, the EU's executive body – the European Commission – is launching a major 13-country research project – InMAR (Intelligent Materials for Active Noise Reduction) – aimed at cutting noise levels.
Studies in France and other European countries with dense urban populations point to a wide range of ill effects associated with unacceptable noise levels. Among these are hearing loss – common in factories and industry – hypertension, intestinal problems, hormone imbalance, psychological stress, and other disorders tied to chronically high decibel levels.
Some quiet time, please
According to the Commission, the new integrated project worth €34 million will incorporate a wide range of study areas and draw on existing research and knowledge in this important field. But one of the main approaches will be to develop what one of the project partners, the Fraunhofer Institute, calls “smart materials and systems that actively cut down on noise” by drowning out a particular sound or by insulating against the unwanted din.
The primary focus of InMAR will be tackling transport and infrastructure noise. Initial funding from the EU is for five years. InMAR's strength is it will build a critical mass of resources through its integrated collaboration of 42 partners from a wide range of specialties.
Investigations will also be carried out into possible ways of using active systems to reduce the noise emitted by automobiles and trains as well as noise in buildings. Through InMAR, the European research community has succeeded in pooling its best resources in the field of active systems, forming a strong counter-force to similar activities in the USA and Asia, explains Holger Hanselka, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability LBF.
News sources and Fraunhofer Institute