Thursday, December 30, 2010

Noise Pollution Law in Europe

European Court tackles unacceptable traffic noise pollution (Strasbourg Observers, Dec. 1, 2010)

Also discussed here: Night noise guidelines for Europe (162 page pdf, World Health Org., 2009)

A recent ruling by the European Court found that the state had not done enough to provide a citizen’s “right to respect for his private life and home”. The EU has shown leadership in producing guidelines and legal opinions that focus on health impacts of noise, especially in urban settings.

Key Quotes:

“Traffic noise pollution – especially at night – is one of the biggest health risks of contemporary Europe. This kind of pollution causes inter alia sleep disturbance, cardiovascular diseases, aberrant social behavior and stress.”

  • about 40% of the population in EU countries is exposed to road traffic noise at levels exceeding 55 db(A);

  • 20% is exposed to levels exceeding 65 dB(A) during the daytime; and more than 30% is exposed to levels exceeding 55 dB(A) at night

  • Chronically ill and elderly people are more sensitive to disturbance

  • Shift workers are at increased risk because their sleep structure is under stress

  • less affluent who cannot afford to live in quiet residential areas or have adequately insulated homes, are likely to suffer disproportionately.

“Although the right to a quiet and healthy environment is not incorporated in the Convention, it is settled case-law that environmental pollution, such as noise, emissions or smells, can amount to an interference with the right to respect for someone’s private life and home”

“measures taken by the authorities consistently proved to be insufficient, as a result of which the applicant was exposed to excessive noise disturbance over a substantial period of time”

“noise pressure significantly above statutory levels, unresponded to by appropriate State measures, may as such amount to a violation of Article 8 of the Convention”

“such an interpretation of article 8 ECHR would have enormous implications for all kinds of projects that have adverse environmental effects – in particular with regard to infrastructural works that have a negative effect on traffic noise pollution”

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