Environmental noise, caused by traffic, industrial and recreational activities is considered to be a significant local environmental problem in Europe. Noise complaints have increased in Europe since 1992 and it is estimated that roughly 20% of the Union’s population or close to 80 million people suffer from noise levels which scientists and health experts consider unacceptable (European Commission Green Paper, Future Noise Policy, Brussels, 1996). Noise policy at the European level needs to be supported by research evidence on noise and health. The evidence on noise exposure and health varies across health outcomes and, although there have been considerable research achievements in this field, there are still significant gaps that need to be filled. The ENNAH network aims to refine knowledge on the effects of noise on health.
The EC ‘Environmental Noise Directive’ aims to define a common approach across the European Union for the assessment and management of environmental noise, in order to reduce harmful effects. Under the directive, countries have to produce noise maps modelling noise exposure and from these maps develop subsequent action plans to tackle areas of high noise exposure and preserve quiet areas. At present, the first set of noise maps for major transport infrastructures and cities/towns have been developed and action plans are being prepared. The ENNAH network aims to produce information that is useful for the further development of the ‘Environmental Noise Directive’ by examining whether existing noise maps can be used to establish any adverse effects of noise on health.
Research on noise and health has been significantly advanced by two previous EU funded projects: RANCH which examined relationships between aircraft and road traffic noise at school and children’s cognition and health, and HYENA which explored the impact of aircraft and road traffic noise on blood pressure in adults. One function of this network will be to undertake further analysis of the HYENA and RANCH data and other relevant studies which include:
It is clear that transport systems (road traffic in particular) generate both noise and air pollution. However, few studies addressing both factors have been conducted to date. Current knowledge suggests that noise and air pollution may affect the cardiovascular system in different ways, suggesting that exposure to both factors may have greater impact upon health.
The network will establish communication between researchers on noise and researchers on air pollution, as well as undertake analyses of existing data to examine the potential effects on cardiovascular health of exposure to both noise and air pollution. In the network we will train junior researchers in noise and health through setting up an exchange network across Europe ENNAH Young Researcher Exchange Programme