Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Winter 2010 – page 3

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Night Noise Guielines for Europe — WHO Report


The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe set up a working group of experts to provide scientific advice to the Member States for the development of future legislation and policy action in the area of assessment and control of night noise exposure.

The working group reviewed available scientific evidence on the health effects of night noise, and derived health-based guideline values. In December 2006, the working group and stakeholders from industry, government, and non-governmental organizations reviewed and reached general agreement on the guideline values and key texts for the final document of the Night Noise Guidelines for Europe.

Considering the scientific evidence on the thresholds of night noise exposure (indicated by "Lnight, outside"), as defined in the Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC), an Lnight, outside of 40dB should be the target of the night-noise guideline (NNG) to protect the public, including the most vulnerable groups such as children, the chronically ill and the elderly.

Lnight,outside value of 55 dB is recommended as an interim target for the countries where the NNG cannot be achieved in the short term for various reasons, and where policy makers choose to adopt a stepwise approach.

These guidelines are applicable to the Member States of the European Region, and may be considered as an extension to, as well as an update of, the previous WHO Guidelines for community noise (1999).



Related article in the Richmond Review

Our member G. Sutherland sent us an article of the Richmond Review, in which staff reporter Martin van den Hemel wrote about a persistent noise problem from refrigeration compressors on the roof of a True World Foods warehouse. In this article, Hemel also referred to Dr. Rokho Kim, the project leader of the WHO report above. Following are some excerpts.

“Potential health impacts from exposure to noise levels of between 32 and 42 decibels (dB) range from sleep deprivation to learning difficulties to depression and cardiovascular problems, Kim said. If people are constantly exposed to noise levels in the bedroom above 40dB, first of all sleep disturbance is a big problem. Chronic sleep disturbance can lead to mental illness.

Kim said children who don’t sleep very well are more likely to ‘make some type of domestic accidents, which could lead to injuries’. Outside noise levels of 55 to 60dB were clearly linked to cardiovascular effects, the report found.”

This case in Richmond once more made it obvious that many municipal noise-control bylaws are not specific enough regarding sound-measuring criteria and other details.

Equally importantly, the corresponding municipal authorities should be much more pro-active, rather than to show no concern until a WHO noise expert explains the deleterious effects of noise on our health.

Regrettably, reports like that were not available 20 years ago, when the expansion of the Vancouver International Airport was under review.

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Wind turbine noise rules are outdated, say campaigners

Experts say existing rules on turbine noise are outdated. The government urgently needs to update its guidance on how local authorities should assess the impact of noise from wind turbines, campaigners have said. Environmental Protection UK say turbines are now so large, the noise generated by the turning blades can affect those living nearby.

The pressure group believes that changes in technology are not being reflected in the current guidelines. The government says it is continuing research into the impact of noise. Environmental Protection UK campaigns to minimize noise pollution—as well as reduce air pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases. It is supported by the UK government, Environment Agency, and Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Radical overhaul
Experts working for the group say the government guidelines on acceptable noise levels for wind


turbines were due for revision 11 years ago, and there has been little sign that changes in wind turbine technology is reflected in these rules. They add that this guidance was designed for structures of about 90ft (27m) in height, but some applications for wind farms include turbines that are at least three times higher.

The group says that current guidance assumes that background noise at ground level, such as the rustling of leaves, would help mask the noise of the blades turning. Turbines are becoming so big, the group says, that any masking effect on the ground could be cancelled out. Environmental Protection UK argues the rules need a radical overhaul, otherwise applications for new wind farms are in danger of being rejected.


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Austrailian tree frogs suffer from noise — Population decline

Male tree frogs changed the pitch of their mating song to be better heard or heard at all by females over the din of traffic and other urban noise in Melbourne. But females prefer males with the deeper voice. This problem has caused a decline of the species.

—The World this Weekend, CBC Radio 1

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