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Car-centred urban planning has resulted in high levels of pollution, sedentary lifestyles and increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change. The superblock model is an urban and transport planning strategy that reclaims public space for people, reduces motorised transport, promotes active lifestyles, provides urban greening and mitigates the effects of climate change. A study now estimates the health impacts of applying this model across Barcelona.
The measures available to reduce the noise and vibration produced by trains have been outlined in a recent study. The researchers say the most appropriate mitigation should be determined on a case-by-case basis and life-cycle assessments can help analyse the economic costs and carbon footprint of different methods.
As the sources and severity of noise pollution continue to grow, there is a need for new approaches to reduce exposure. This Future Brief looks at the complex and pervasive problem of noise pollution: a problem with no single solution, requiring a combination of short-, medium- and long-term approaches and careful consideration of the nature of the noise source.
No cities are yet fully car-free, but many have managed or plan to restrict access to city centres for privately owned combustion-engine passenger cars. Health benefits will come from reduced traffic-related air pollution, less noise and lower levels of heat emitted from vehicles. The greatest health benefit, however, is likely to come from increased physical activity as people walk, cycle and move to catch public transport, according to a review of the potential health benefits of car-free cities.
Researchers have estimated that, annually, almost 3 000 deaths (i.e. 20% of mortality) in Barcelona, Spain, are premature, and would be preventable if residents lived in urban environments that met international exposure recommendations for physical activity, air pollution, noise, heat and access to green spaces. The results emphasise the need to reduce motorised traffic, promote active and public transport, and provide adequate green space to encourage exercise and mitigate the impacts of environmental hazards in cities.
Wind farms are an important component of Europe’s shift towards a greener energy supply, but they could potentially have an impact on marine ecosystems. This study provides the first measurements of the distribution of harbour seals in relation to the construction and operation of wind farms, and makes recommendations to minimise any potential harm, including breaks in the pile-driving phase of construction.
Lower socioeconomic status is generally associated with poorer health, and both air and noise pollution contribute to a wide range of other factors influencing human health. But do these health inequalities arise because of increased exposure to pollution, increased sensitivity to exposure, increased vulnerabilities, or some combination? This In-depth Report presents evidence on whether people in deprived areas are more affected by air and noise pollution — and suffer greater consequences — than wealthier populations.
A new study has assessed community perceptions towards a controversial wind-farm development in Cornwall, UK, following installation. The results indicate that a range of social, economic and environmental factors influence residents’ perceptions of wind farms. Although negative opinions of the wind farm were found both before and after construction, overall, community attitudes towards them became more favourable after construction, adding to evidence that fear of living near wind farms can reduce over time.
People who are annoyed by environmental noise are also more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, a new, large-scale study from Germany suggests. The results do not prove that noise causes mental health issues but suggest a possible link, which the study’s authors are exploring further. Of all the types of noise considered in the study, aircraft noise was reported to be the most annoying.
Physical inactivity raises the risk of ill health, so environmental factors that reduce the level of physical activity in people should be of concern to policymakers as well as to individuals. A new study has associated long-term annoyance with transportation noise with reduced physical activity in Swiss residents, which may indirectly contribute to diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
Airports are associated with air and noise pollution and may, therefore, reduce the quality of life of local people. This study assessed the link between aircraft noise and subjective wellbeing, using data from 17 English airports. The authors conclude that living under flight paths has a negative effect on people’s overall wellbeing, equivalent to around half of the effect of being a smoker for some indicators.
Animal-train collisions are an important cause of animal mortality. This study tested the ability of a device that emits natural warning calls to reduce risk of animals being hit by trains in central Poland. Animals, including roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and brown hare (Lepus europaeus) escaped in most cases. The authors say the device is an effective means of risk reduction as it allows animals to escape train tracks earlier and more often.
Human-generated noise can reduce the foraging activity of wildlife and should be taken into account during conservation planning, a new study suggests. The test showed that traffic noise decreased the foraging activity of Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii) by inducing an avoidance response. The new experimental approach could be used to identify how noise disturbs any species capable of detecting noise.
People living close to road, rail and aircraft noise are likely to experience negative health effects. Long-term noise exposure may lead to problems with their heart and circulatory (cardiovascular) system and night-time noise is particularly disruptive of sleep patterns, which in turn may lead to cardiovascular health problems, a review of research into the effects of noise on cardiovascular diseases has found.
Exposure to environmental noise levels above recommended levels results in 1169 cases of dementia, 788 strokes and 542 heart attacks every year in the UK alone, new research suggests. Valuing a year of healthy life at £60 000 (€74 002) means that these health impacts together have a ‘cost’ of £1.09 billion (€1.34 billion), the study’s authors conclude.
Recent research into the impact of different levels of noise on 75 volunteers reveals that disturbed sleep caused by night-time aircraft noise can damage blood vessels and increase the levels of stress hormones. As these physical changes are potential pathways to high blood pressure, heart and circulatory disease over the long term, reducing night-time aircraft noise is important for preventing cardiovascular disease in people living near airports.
Vulnerable groups of people, including those with long-term illnesses, those sensitive to noise or tinnitus (ringing of the ears), people with mental health problems and unborn and newly born babies, are often more susceptible to physical and emotional stresses. As a result, vulnerable groups of people may be more at risk from exposure to environmental noise than healthy adults. However, there is comparatively little research focusing on the adverse health effects of noise on vulnerable people, say scientists reviewing these health impacts.
Children living close to busy roads may have an increased risk of hyperactivity. They may also have more emotional problems, especially if they are exposed to higher levels of noise during the night, according to research carried out on children’s health in Germany.
While occupational exposure to noise has declined, ‘social’ exposure in the form of personal music players or rock concerts is estimated to have tripled for young people since the 1980s. A new review examines studies that have investigated noise sources, including environmental (e.g. traffic) and social (e.g. via headphones) sources. The review also explores research into the range of health effects beyond hearing impairments, such as annoyance and cardiovascular problems.
Living in a quiet area has a positive impact on health. A study compared quality of life for people living in quiet and noisy locations and found that those who lived in quiet locations—particularly in rural areas—had a better quality of life.
Sounds affect our state of mind differently depending on whether they are pleasant or annoying. In a theoretical study, researchers developed a model for exploring human responses to sound. Their work may help us to better understand the health impacts of long-term exposure to noise, as well as the potential benefits of spending time in quiet spaces.
Wind turbine noise can be detected at low levels, even when it is heard alongside motorway traffic noise, a study finds. It is possible for louder motorways to drown out turbine noise, however. The participants in this listening experiment could easily detect wind turbine noise, but only once they knew it was present in recordings of environmental noise.
Green walls, designed so they are covered in vegetation, could help cut the amount of noise that enters buildings, a new study has found. In lab. tests, researchers found that a modular green wall system reduced sound levels by 15 decibels (dB). This leads them to believe that it is a promising sound reduction device that could improve quality-of-life for city residents.
A new mobile phone application which can help monitor traffic-noise exposure is presented in a recent study. The app, ‘2Loud?’, can measure indoor night-time noise exposure and, given large-scale community participation, could provide valuable data to aid urban planning, the researchers say. In an Australian pilot study, nearly half of participants who used the app found that they were exposed to potentially unhealthy levels of night-time noise.
The noise generated by commercial shipping can impair the ability of the critically endangered European eel to avoid predators, new research has found. The results show that marine noise can have serious effects on these animals with potentially fatal consequences.
Road traffic noise and air pollution both increase the risk of having a stroke, recent research from Denmark suggests. The results suggest that traffic noise is more strongly associated with ischaemic stroke, whereas only air pollution appears to be linked with more serious, fatal strokes.
What is the value of clean air? Answering such a question may be achieved by asking citizens how much they are willing to pay. However, some individuals give 'protest vote' responses to such questions. Recent research in EU countries found that the main reasons for this were because they felt that the polluters themselves or the government should be responsible for such costs.
Noise from underwater geological surveys may be affecting the feeding and social interactions of harbour porpoises, new research has found. The study, conducted off the north-east coast of Scotland, found that the buzz clicks used by porpoises to hunt and socialise were reduced by 15% during the surveys.
New software has been developed to rate the health risks of different activities in the urban environment, for example, cycling or driving in different areas of a city. 'CENSE' is based on a variety of different pollutants and environmental health hazards encountered in urban environments and may provide a useful tool for urban planning and improving residents’ quality of life, its developers say.
Exposure to aircraft noise at night for more than 20 years could increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to research conducted around six European airports. Risk also increased for those constantly exposed to road traffic, but this may have been caused by air pollution rather than noise.
A new study into the impact of railway noise has revealed that it is not just the level of noise that contributes to annoyance for local residents, but also the number of trains and the vibrations they cause. As railway transport is likely to increase in coming years, plans are needed to reduce these effects.
It is difficult to compare estimates of noise exposure across EU Member States because the methods used to produce the data vary between countries. A new study has investigated five methods of estimating noise exposure and identified some of the reasons for variation in the data they produce.
Techniques for reducing the noise caused by wind turbines are reviewed in a new study. Noise pollution is one drawback of wind power and restricts where wind farms can be located in relation to people and wildlife. The researchers identify methods that could aid the design of low-noise wind turbines, including modifying the blade's shape and adding rows of brushes to the edge of the blade.
A recent study presents a cost and time-effective way to identify areas with particularly low levels of noise pollution. The recommended method will make it easier for EU Member States to recognise quiet areas which could offer great health and ecological benefits, as well as meeting one of the Environmental Noise Directive requirements.
A study on the effects of noise pollution from natural gas wells in the US reveals that it may have reduced the number of young trees growing locally by changing the types of animals that visit the area. However, in the same woodland environment, flowering plants pollinated by hummingbirds seem to benefit from the noise.
A new study has assessed the annoyance caused by a combination of noises typically found on an industrial site. The results could help improve total noise annoyance prediction models. For example, it was found that 'broadband' noises, which consist of a wide range of frequencies, lead to more annoyance if they are combined with a specific additional set of low frequency noises, which can lead to an overall identical noise level.
Major roads, railways, airports and industrial areas can be a major source of noise nuisance for local communities. To help city planners and architects determine the most appropriate sound insulation design for the exterior of buildings, Turkish researchers have developed a new method that transforms noise maps into insulation maps.
Noise pollution in urban areas can harm our physical and mental wellbeing, and can have damaging effects on urban wildlife. Now, researchers from China have shown for the first time how a 'land use regression method' can be used to model urban noise and predict the effects of future planning decisions on noise levels.
A new World Health Organisation (WHO) study has estimated that the health impact of environmental noise in western Europe could be up to 1.6 million healthy life years lost annually through ill health, disability or early death.
A recent study suggests that exposure to aircraft noise during the day has a greater impact on cognitive ability in children than sleep-disruption caused by exposure to aircraft noise during the night. Protective policy is therefore likely to be most effective if focused at the school level.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set the European target limit of outdoor night noise levels at annual average of 40 decibels (dB) in its new guidelines. This would protect the public, including the most vulnerable, such as children and the elderly.
New research has analysed some of the issues around the implementation of the EU's Environmental Noise Directive (END) by Member States. It demonstrated large differences in the way noise levels are calculated and geographically mapped between countries and called for more standardised and clearer guidelines.
New research has identified 25 variables that influence noise in urban areas. By combining these into an equation, the study produced an accurate tool to describe urban sound environments that could be useful in urban planning.
A recent report has assessed the latest research on the adverse affects of noise on health, focusing on approaches to estimating the economic cost of noise. This information could help policy makers tasked with designing cost-effective noise reduction and management policies.
In a new study, Spanish researchers describe a method specifically designed for measuring and characterising noise from building sites. They claim the method could help shape future policy related to noise pollution caused by the construction industry and provide important information to help reduce construction noise.
Aircraft noise has become more annoying for European citizens in recent years, according to new research. The research found that annoyance with road traffic noise had not increased, suggesting attitudes to aircraft noise have changed. The researchers call for changes to the standard procedure used in the EU to predict aircraft noise annoyance.
Excess noise is a common cause of stress and its impact on health is a concern for environmental policy makers. An analysis of current research in this area raises the question of whether noise-induced stress could increase the likelihood of illness by weakening the immune system
To manage noise, it must first be assessed. Several commercial noise prediction tools exist, but they are often complex and expensive. A new Irish study evaluates a simpler tool and demonstrates that it produces very similar results to standard commercial software.
Noise is a serious and growing environmental problem worldwide. New research reveals that exposure to high levels of road traffic noise increases the risk of heart attacks. These findings add to concerns about the impact of noise on health.
The 2002 Environmental Noise Directive seeks to provide a uniform basis for measuring and addressing noise pollution, one of the most important urban environmental issues for the EU. New research has assessed city-dwellers' exposure to noise and proposes traffic management strategies to reduce harmful levels.
Busy roads have major impacts on the environment of surrounding areas, with noise pollution from traffic being one of the biggest problems. Building sound barriers alongside the road is a common way to minimise such noise. A recent study highlights the benefits and disadvantages of sound barriers.
Noise pollution is a key issue facing policy makers in urban areas. In a recent development that might help town planners, researchers have proposed a design for a new sound-proofing device, an acoustic 'cloak', that could be 100 per cent effective. This suggests that, one day, buildings could be adapted to fully protect their inhabitants from external noise.
Recent studies indicate that exposure to noise is damaging to your health. New research from the EU-funded HYENA (Hypertension and Exposure to Noise near Airports) Study shows that living near an airport increases your risk of hypertension.
Swedish researchers have recently analysed the potential for decreasing noise emissions from road traffic in Europe. The report concludes that the technical potential exists to reduce the emissions substantially and highlights the need for further political action as well as research on road surfaces, and quieter tyres and vehicles.
Noise pollution is a priority on the list of citizens' concerns and noise reduction has increasingly become a focus for EU legislation and a priority for research initiatives. In this context, the EU noise expert group recently presented an updated Strategy Paper for future research to reduce environmental noise in Europe. The expert group concludes that research is a key element in reducing the effects of high sound levels. Research should cover aspects such as the assessment of noise exposure and perception, health impacts of exposure to noise, noise abatement including cost-benefit aspects, new technologies and system approaches for improved noise control at source and the further development of legislative standards.
Swedish researchers have recently explored how to determine railway-noise charges in the European Union to promote the reduction of noise levels based on the marginal cost principle. The authors conclude that it is possible to apply already existing knowledge of monetary and acoustical noise evaluation to estimate infrastructure charges.
Spanish researchers have recently studied the dose-effect relationship between measured road traffic noise and reported disturbance, and the social and economical valuation of noise in a medium-sized city in Spain. The researchers found that up to 50% of the population would be willing to pay money in order to reduce noise pollution. The results may be useful when deciding what solutions should be adopted to reduce noise levels.
A recent Austrian study confirms that exposure to underwater noise pollution is a major source of stress for freshwater fish. The results show that ship noise can increase the secretion of stress hormones in fish by up to 120% in comparison with a no-noise situation. The authors emphasise that this biological response to man-made noise can have severe impacts on the growth and development of fish.
Recent research has evaluated the environmental costs of both aircraft noise and engine emissions at different sized airports in Europe. The total environmental costs have been estimated to range from ?11 million to ?645 million per year depending on the airport size and traffic and operation characteristics. The results and methodology of environmental cost calculations presented in the paper could be applied to the proposed EU harmonised noise charges as well as to other social and economic benefit analyses of airports.
European researchers have investigated the effects of exposure to aircraft and road traffic noise on cognitive performance and health in children. The results suggest that exposure to high levels of aircraft noise could impair the development of reading capacity and memory in children. Thus, schools exposed to high levels of aircraft noise are not healthy educational environments.
Swedish researchers have investigated whether there are differences in the effects of road traffic noise on sleep between studies performed in the laboratory and in field settings. The results suggest that laboratory experiments do not exaggerate the effects of sleep disturbances from road traffic noise.
Recent epidemiologic study shows that long- term exposure to high traffic noise increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
A recent study demonstrates that lower noise exposure limit (55dB) used for the drawing up of the maps of the major noise sources across EU leads to a large underestimation of the noise annoyance indicators. Dropping of this lower limit for the next round of noise mapping in 2012 will be crucial to define adequate long-term noise pollution reduction measures.