Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What is the Next Biggest Environmental Health Problem After Air Pollution?

Lessening the Severe Health Effects of Traffic Noise in Cities by Emission Reductions (28 page pdf, Tor Kihlman, Wolfgang Kropp, and William Lang, The CAETS Noise Control Technology Committee and the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering, May 2014)

Also discussed here: Traffic noise is dangerous for your health: Solutions exist for dense cities (ScienceDaily, Jul1, 2014)

Today we review a report that looks at the second biggest environmental cause of health problems after air pollution, noise. As with air pollution, the single biggest source is road traffic from the interaction between tires and pavement or “rolling noise”. Solutions call for “quiet pavements” and improved design of tires although the authors report that present regulations and that most actions by government and industry fall well short of solving the problem. An interesting point was made about safety concerns about electric cars being too quiet to the point that government wants to require noise emitters – a step that is seen as unnecessary and counterproductive. Again, as with air pollution, an effective solution is to reduce roads traffic by promoting quiet forms of transportation, such as walking and cycling. Steps to reduce road noise would also benefit efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and climate change impacts.

 noise in cities  

Key Quotes:

“Traffic noise is the second biggest environmental problem in the EU, according to WHO. After air pollution, noise is affecting health the most….The adverse health effects of traffic noise are comparable to the health effects of road traffic accidents. Most cases of mortality are in areas where noise immission levels are less than 10 – 15 dB above WHO’s proposed intermediate targets.”

“In its 2009 guidelines for Europe, WHO has set Lnight < 55 dB as the interim target for healthy dwellings.”"In recent years, the scientific basis for assessment has broadened considerably. But the legislation to protect residents of unhealthy noise levels is completely inadequate,"

 "Many of the needed measures are ideal for implementation in dense cities. They are often in line with what is required to tackle climate change. Here are double benefits to point to…the procurement of quiet public transport, reduced speed, and the usage of buildings as as effective noise barriers, through good urban planning.”

“Rolling noise is an important part of the emissions. It depends on tyre and road surface properties…. .. There is no regulation on road surfaces with respect to their acoustic performance. There is no incentive for road “owners” and industry to improve the acoustic quality of road surfaces. Development of methods is needed.”

“A source-related measure besides “quiet pavements” is speed control esp. at night-time in sensitive areas. This is no effective method if not combined with noise emission limits for the vehicles at speeds well below 50 km/h.”

Traffic planning and management is crucial to achieve healthier cities. Traffic avoidance, mode shifts, low speed limits especially at night-time must be part of the planning for healthier cities. Demands must be set on limited noise emissions on public transportation systems, goods delivery systems, garbage collection, street cleaning, among others.”

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