Impact of road traffic noise on annoyance and preventable mortality in European cities: A health impact assessment.
Environment International 2021 ; 162: 107160.
PubMed ID : 35231841
Road traffic is the main source of environmental noise in European cities and one of the main environmental risks to health and wellbeing. In this study we aimed to provide an in-depth assessment of available road traffic noise data and to estimate population exposure and health impacts for cities in Europe.
We conducted the analysis for 724 cities and 25 greater cities in 25 European countries. We retrieved road traffic strategic noise maps delivered under the Environmental Noise Directive (END) or available from local sources. We assessed noise exposure using the 24 h day-evening-night noise level indicator (L) starting at exposure levels of 55 dB L - based on data availability - for the adult population aged 20 and over (n = 123,966,346). For the adults exposed to noise levels above 55 dB L we estimated the health impacts of compliance with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of 53 dB L. Two primary health outcomes were assessed: high noise annoyance and Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD), using mortality from IHD causes as indicator. Exposure Response Functions (ERFs) relating road traffic noise exposure to annoyance and IHD mortality were retrieved from the literature. Uncertainties in input parameters were propagated using Monte Carlo simulations to obtain point estimates and empirical 95% Confidence Intervals (CIs). Lastly, the noise maps were categorized as high, moderate and low quality following a qualitative approach.
Strategic noise map data was delivered in three distinct formats (i.e. raster, polygon or polyline) and had distinct noise ranges and levels of categorization. The majority of noise maps (i.e. 83.2%) were considered of moderate or low quality. Based on the data provided, almost 60 million adults were exposed to road traffic noise levels above 55 dB L, equating to a median of 42% (Interquartile Range (IQR): 31.8-64.8) of the adult population across the analysed cities. We estimated that approximately 11 million adults were highly annoyed by road traffic noise and that 3608 deaths from IHD (95% CI: 843-6266) could be prevented annually with compliance of the WHO recommendation. The proportion of highly annoyed adults by city had a median value of 7.6% (IQR: 5.6-11.8) across the analysed cities, while the number preventable deaths had a median of 2.2 deaths per 100,000 population (IQR: 1.4-3.1).
Based on the provided strategic noise maps a considerable number of adults in European cities are exposed to road traffic noise levels harmful for health. Efforts to standardize the strategic noise maps and to increase noise and disease data availability at the city level are needed. These would allow for a more accurate and comprehensive assessment of the health impacts and further help local governments to address the adverse health effects of road traffic noise.