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International Association Against Noise
Apologies for the length of this posting. We don't hear much from the
International Association Against Noise, based in Switzerland, so I thought
list members would like to read the full text of Dr. Willi Aecherli's
letter to the European Union on the situation in Europe, as translated by
Hans Schmid. This is reproduced with Dr. Aecherli's blessing.
I found it particularly interesting that Switzerland has limited the noise
levels at musical events.
The Green Book referred to is available at
Translation of a letter by
Dr. jur. Willy Aecherli
Secretary General, International Association Against Noise (AICB)
tel.: (041) 410 30 13
fax.: (041) 410 90 93
Mr. Prudencio Perera
Commission of the European Union
200, rue de la Loi
dated Jan. 20, 1997
Dear Mr. Perera,
FUTURE NOISE PROTECTION POLICIES
in the Green Book of the European Commission
I submit the following COMMENTS
The situation to date:
According to available estimates, approximately 20% of the Union's
population or about 80 million people are exposed to noise levels which are
considered to be unacceptable by scientists and medical professionals, by
which most people feel disturbed, which lead to sleep disturbances and
could have detrimental effects on their health. 170 million more people
live in so-called "grey zones" where, during the daytime, the noise impact
leads to a strong annoyance.
Thanks to the existing regulations and technological advances, significant
single source noise reduction has been achieved. Thus, for instance, sound
emissions of cars have been reduced by 85% and of lorries by 90% since
1970. However, the data of the last 15 years show no clear reduction of the
noise impact, especially not with regard to road traffic noise. The
increase in traffic volume as well as its duration and expansion in
affected areas, plus the development of leisure activities and tourism, has
partially cancelled out the technological improvements. The anticipated
increase in road and air traffic, as well as the extension of the
high-speed railroad traffic, will rather augment the noise problem.
For over 25 years now the European Union has taken noise abatement
measures. In addition, member countries have implemented legal requirements
and taken other measures to reduce problems with noise. In spite of having
achieved reduced sound levels in the most burdened areas, latest data show
that the overall noise problem has got worse and the number of people
living in those "grey areas" has grown. Above all, the uninterrupted volume
increase by all forms of traffic, combined with the growth of cities, has
led to the fact that the high noise burden has expanded in time as well as
in space. Beyond that, new sources of noise and areas affected by it have
been created through leisure and tourism activities during the past 20
years. Due to this development, already established political measures to
solve the noise problem are no longer adequate.
In general, noise abatement measures have so far been given less priority
than efforts to reduce other environmental problems like air and water
pollution, notwithstanding the fact that, according to opinion polls, noise
is considered to be a major encroachment on the quality of life. One of the
reasons for that could be that the decision-makers are not aware of these
problems or, perhaps, they do not know the unspectacular effects of noise:
these effects are insidiously malicious, not suddenly catastrophic.
The Green Book comes to the conclusion that the data of the past 15 years
show no clear improvements in the alleviation of environmental noise,
particularly with respect to road traffic noise. Although noise levels have
remained relatively stable since the early eighties and measures in
particularly affected areas with exposures to over 70 dB(A) have been
successful, the part of the population that is exposed to noise levels of
more than 65 dB(A) still remains high. Furthermore, during the late
eighties, in the so-called "grey areas" (55-65dB(A)) of many West European
countries, more people became affected due to the rapid increase in road
Recommendations for a more effective mitigation of the noise burden
Road traffic noise
It must be the duty of the Europe-wide traffic policy to restrict a further
increase in trans-border road traffic, especially that of heavy-weight
vehicles, and transfer as much as possible of it to the railroads.
Political co-operation in Europe regarding traffic has been unable to keep
up with the expansion of the traffic volume. Conflicting interests in
traffic policies between the member states of the EU and those of the Free
Trade Zone, particularly in Switzerland, increasingly turn out to be an
obstacle to an effective restriction of the volume in trans-alpine
north-south traffic and traffic with the northern countries.
In the countries with influx of heavy-weight vehicle traffic a change in
attitude must be effected and the heavy-weight vehicle traffic must be
taken off the roads and onto the rails. With the increase in heavy-weight
vehicle traffic to be expected not only in countries with transit over the
Alps, especially Switzerland and Austria, but equally in adjacent
countries, an unreasonable noise burden and a threat to the quality of life
is to be expected.
Through the Swiss Alpine Initiative, there shall be an abstention from the
construction of trans-alpine high-capacity roadways and within 10 years the
trans-alpine motor vehicle traffic shall be transferred onto rail.
According to legal requirements in Switzerland, there exists a prohibition
on driving heavy motor vehicles during nights and Sundays. Exempt are
vehicles for passenger transport, (farm-) tractors and other similar
equipment. The driving restriction during night-time is in effect from
April 1st to October 31st, between 10:00 pm and 4:00 am and from November
1st to March 31st between 9:00 pm and 5:00 am.
Considering the detrimental health effects, the following findings are of
particular importance: according to a study by the Federation for the
Protection of the Environment and Nature (FPEN) in Germany and the German
Working Group for Noise Abatement (GWGNA), people living along main traffic
arteries face a 20% higher risk of a myocardial infarction. Also, 2% of all
infarctions were traced to traffic noise and from 70 dB(A) on up, the risk
of a fatal infarction rises by one fifth.
The president of the GWGNA, Prof. Dr. Rainer Guski, explained: "The study
confirms that 2,000 to 3,000 fatal infarctions per year could be avoided if
the annoying traffic noise could be reduced to below 65 dB(A)." The FPEN
states that permanent noise means permanent stress. The body's responses
include fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach ulcers and hypertension. Both
organisations cited road traffic noise as the main source ofnoise.
According to a Swiss study, at this country's airports a reduction of the
noise emissions at the source is countered by a 15-40% increase in aircraft
movements. Under the abatement measures taken so far, these conflicting
tendences lead to no appreciable change in the situation. The airports are
reaching their maximum capacity for which they try to shift ever more
aircraft movements into formerly quiet residential zones and fringe time
A ban on night flights must be decreed and promptly enforced. That ban may
not simply be lifted due to a lack of capacity as frequently happens now,
but only in emergencies like diversions due to bad weather or unavoidable
delays. The latter shall be subject to massive surcharges.
Improvements to the fleet of aircraft at the national and international
level shall be advanced through allocated fees like, for example,
noise-dependent user fees and an increase in fuel price.
Regularly scheduled domestic air traffic at national and regional airports
is to be restricted. Europe has an already well developed railroad network.
There shall be limitations in volume and time on regularly scheduled air
traffic at regional airports as well as on training and charter flights for
tourism at any airodrome; for instance, flights only from 9 to 11 am and 3
to 5 pm and, above all, no such flights on week-ends. It is not admissible
to make up with increases in aircraft movementswhat noise reduction is
gained by technological advances in noise abatement.
Helicopter flights are to be limited to important rescue and transport
flights only. Flights for taking pictures are to be permitted only where an
important need can beproven.
Protection of noise in discotheques
Noise levels in discotheques remain largely unrestricted to date. According
to studies carried out in Austria and Norway, this increasing burden on the
hearing through music has already led to a statistically significant
deterioration of the hearing capacity of juveniles. Such noise levels can
reach 115 dB(A) and those of a "walkman" can range from 80 to 110 dB(A). By
comparison, road traffic reaches approximately 70 dB(A).
According to a study carried out in Austria, two thirds of the so called
are traced to the loud music in discos, and a lot fewer to the consumption
of alcohol. This excessively loud music causes a hearing impairment that
lasts for several hours. Apart from that, an increase in blood pressure and
heartbeat and an acceleration of the breathing rhythm occurs in the discos.
These changes last for several hours, are still effective while driving
home and result in a clearly discernible increase in agressive driving
manners which results in a reduction of the capacity to respond,
concentrate and pay attention.
An announcement that was recently aired on TV stated that the hearing of
every fifth French and German is already threatened. Since April 1, 1996 an
ordinance exists in Switzerland which limits the noise level to 93 dB(A).
This makes Switzerland the first country to protect the hearing of
attendants at musical events. Considering the dimension of the hearing
damages and the involved health care costs, it is incumbent on the EU
Commission to implement noise protection measures in discotheques and at
The Green Book shall effect a public discussion about the direction of
noise protection policies in the future.
The effectiveness of a successful noise protection policy largely depends
on the good co-operation of the (member-) states.
Beyond that, the EU can assist member states with the exchange of
experiences concerning the combat of noise.
The EU Commission will expand the available means and afford noise
abatement a higher political profile. Transit providers/operators and
leading producers in the industry shall be invited to develop low-noise
appliances and products.
With kind regards,
ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONALE CONTRE LE BRUIT
Dr. Willy Aecherli
(Deutscher Arbeitsring fuer Laermbekaempfung e.V.)
German Working Group for Noise Abatement
P.O. Box 30 02 20
to Mr. L.H. Visse
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