- Understanding aviation noise
- Regulation and mitigation strategies
- WHO guidelines
“Environmental noise is an important public health issue, featuring among the top environmental risks to health. It has negative impacts on human health and well-being and is a growing concern among both the general public and policymakers in Europe.
At the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Parma, Italy, in 2010, WHO was requested by the Member States in the European Region to produce noise guidelines that included not only transportation noise sources but also personal electronic devices, toys and wind turbines, which had not yet been considered in existing guidelines. Furthermore, European Union Directive 2002/49/EC relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise (END) and related technical guidance from the European Environment Agency both elaborated on the issue of environmental noise and the importance of up-to-date noise guidelines.” – WHO Guidelines, page xiii.
WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Regions
The WHO Regional Office for Europe has developed Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Regions based on the growing understanding of these health impacts of exposure to environmental noise. The main purpose of these guidelines is to provide recommendations for protecting human health from exposure to environmental noise originating from various sources: transportation (road traffic, railway and aircraft) noise, wind turbine noise and leisure noise. They provide robust public health advice underpinned by evidence, which is essential to drive policy action that will protect communities from the adverse effects of noise. The guidelines are published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe. In terms of their health implications, the recommended exposure levels can be considered applicable in other regions and suitable for a global audience (source).
Recommendations (Executive Summary, WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for European Regions, p. 5)
Specific recommendations have been formulated for road traffic noise, railway noise, aircraft noise, wind turbine noise and leisure noise. Recommendations are rated as either strong or conditional.
Strength of recommendation
- A strong recommendation can be adopted as policy in most situations. The guideline is based on the confidence that the desirable effects of adherence to the recommendation outweigh the undesirable consequences. The quality of evidence for a net benefit – combined with information about the values, preferences and resources – informs this recommendation, which should be implemented in most circumstances;
- A conditional recommendation requires a policy-making process with substantial debate and involvement of various stakeholders. There is less certainty of its efficacy owing to lower quality of evidence of a net benefit, opposing values and preferences of individuals and populations affected or the high resource implications of the recommendation, meaning there may be circumstances or settings in which it will not apply.
Alongside specific recommendations, several guiding principles were developed to provide generic advice and support for the incorporation of recommendations into a policy framework. They apply to the implementation of all of the specific recommendations.
Guiding principles: reduce, promote, coordinate and involve.
- Reduce exposure to noise, while conserving quiet areas;
- Promote interventions to reduce exposure to noise and improve health;
- Coordinate approaches to control noise sources and other environmental health risks;
- Inform and involve communities potentially affected by a change in noise exposure.
Guidelines for aircraft noise:
- For average noise exposure, the Guideline Development Group (GDG) strongly recommends reducing noise levels produced by aircraft below 45 dB Lden, as aircraft noise above this level is associated with adverse health effects;
- For night noise exposure, the GDG strongly recommends reducing noise levels produced by aircraft during night-time below 40 dB Lnight, as night- time aircraft noise above this level is associated with adverse effects on;
- To reduce health effects, the GDG strongly recommends that policymakers implement suitable measures to reduce noise exposure from aircraft in the population exposed to levels above the guideline values for average and night noise exposure. For specific interventions the GDG recommends implementing suitable changes in infrastructure.