New World Health Organization guidelines on environmental noise

Acoustics considerations are set to be shaped by influential new guidelines on the impact of environmental noise on human health and well-being.

New Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region were published by the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe this month (October) and will drive policy and guidance for the sector over the coming years.

The last revision to the guidelines took place almost 20 years ago, back in 1999.

For the first time, guidelines consider the impact of people’s leisure noise – nightclubs, live music or sporting events, pubs, fitness classes and listening to loud music through personal listening devices.

The WHO report says: ‘Noise is an important public health issue. It has negative impacts on human health and well-being and is a growing concern.

‘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.’

In drawing up the guidelines, scientists have assessed the relationship between environmental noise and the following health outcomes: cardiovascular and metabolic effects; annoyance; effects on sleep; cognitive impairment; hearing impairment and tinnitus; adverse birth outcomes; and quality of life, mental health and well-being.

The guiding principles are 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

Full details of the guidelines are available here

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By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.