Environmental noise (noise pollution) poses a health risk. According to a new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), prepared with support of the EC Joint Research Centre, environmental noise leads to a disease burden that is second in magnitude only to that from air pollution, among environmental factors in Europe.

Whereas the direct consequences of noise pollution lead to permanent hearing loss and impairments, the indirect health effects encompass a wide range of health complications resulting from increased anxiety, psychological distress, depression, and communication problems. In chronic cases this can result in cardiovascular problems.

The report, released on 30 March 2011, reviews the evidence of health effects consequent to noise exposure and estimates the burden of disease in western European countries. It also provides guidance on how best to quantify risks from environmental noise.

The report highlights that:

  • One in three Europeans experience annoyance during the daytime and one in five has disturbed sleep at night because of noise from roads, railways and airports.
  • Traffic-related noise accounts for over 1 million healthy years of life lost annually to ill health, disability or early death in the western countries in the WHO European Region.