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Echo Barrier Blog

How different countries tackle noise pollution

Posted by Tom Peary on May 24, 2017 10:40:00 AM | Acoustic Barriers|Noise Reduction

Ever since the Big Bang, noise pollution on our planet has escalated. With World Health Day on the horizon we take a look at how the problem is handled around the globe. According to a brand new study, one in five Europeans are exposed to harmful levels of noise and this number is set to rise in the next decade, with road traffic the biggest culprit. This is a problem because excessive noise can cause serious physical and mental illness. Countries worldwide have their own set of regulations to bring the decibels down. But they vastly vary from region to region.

UK In the UK, more than 18% of the urban population are estimated to be exposed to harmful noise levels, the great majority of those (14.5%) by road traffic alone. About 7% of people living outside urban areas are exposed to detrimental noise, nearly all of those by road traffic.
A spokesperson for the UK government recently said: “We are committed to ensuring that noise pollution is managed effectively in order to promote good health and quality of life. We have strong protections in place to avoid significant noise impacts in our planning system, environmental permitting systems, in vehicle and product standards and noise abatement legislation.”

Europe The Environmental Noise Directive - END - is the main legislative instrument for monitoring noise pollution in Europe. It requires Member States from the EU to prepare noise maps to determine exposure to environmental noise from major transport and industry sources. These noise maps serve as the basis for adopting action plans designed to prevent and reduce harmful exposure. The END requires Member States to prepare and publish noise management action plans. However, the specific types of measures included in these action plans are decided at Member State level.
The main policy objective is to significantly reduce noise pollution by 2020 and move closer to WHO recommended noise levels. WHO guidelines recommend that exposure should not exceed 40 dB at night but achieving this low level of noise can present a challenge, particularly in urban areas where background noise levels tend to remain relatively high even at night.
Further measures and more focus on implementation needs to be considered to help cities in Europe reduce the noise levels. Member States should really try to develop action plans looking at integrating noise management with other areas of work, such as air quality, transport, mobility, urban planning and the way in which cities are designed.

US While countries in Europe have enforced stringent national noise standards, Americans have for the most part just made more noise; last year, more than 340,000 noise complaints were filed in New York City alone. Tens of millions of Americans suffer from a range of adverse health outcomes due to noise exposure, including heart disease and hearing loss. Reducing environmental noise pollution is achievable and consistent with national prevention goals, yet there is currently no national plan to reduce environmental noise pollution.

India Mumbai is India’s loudest city with violations to noise pollution limit is occurring every single day. The problem has got so bad that traffic police have just launched a campaign to address the noise pollution problem on the city’s roads. The campaign, called “Punishing Signal” and created by FCB Interface, uses special decibel meters connected to traffic signals across the city. When the decibel exceeded a dangerous 85dB, the signal timer would reset itself, forcing the people to wait longer at the signal. This is meant to ‘punish’ them for their impatience with the message that if they honk more; they will have to wait longer. “Honking is a bad habit and an act of traffic indiscipline.
Unfortunately, many Mumbaikars indulge in reckless honking. Honking causes noise pollution, hurts the eardrums, increases heart rate, creates traffic confusion and causes stress,” said Madhukar Pandey, joint commissioner of police at the Mumbai Police. “Unnecessary honking is a menace that everyone recognizes but does little to curb.
This small experiment is one of many attempts by Mumbai Police to create better road discipline in Mumbai. Hopefully, it will encourage Mumbaikars to honk less, and create a noise-free and stress-free commute.”

What can we do? There are many ways to reduce noise. Where traffic noise is concerned, the rise in electric vehicles could help dramatically. These are quieter than diesel and petrol-driven cars. Like electric vehicles, walking and cycling reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time as lowering the decibels. On top of this, roads can be resurfaced with smoother asphalt, traffic management can help, and reducing speed limits works in urban areas. Town planners can also ensure there are quiet areas, such as parks or other green spaces. Another serious area of concern is the noise which comes from building sites. That’s where we can come in.

Our acoustic barriers are used by businesses in countries all over the world carrying out construction work. They drastically reduce the noise pollution from construction work which can cause horrific noise pollution for people living or working nearby. Our temporary barriers are quick and easy to deploy and reduce noise pollution by up to 99%. Find out more about our barriers here:

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