According to WHO, noise is the second greatest environmental cause of health problems (after air quality). Excessive noise can seriously harm human health, including mental health, and interfere with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour. According to WHO, noise is the second greatest environmental cause of health problems after air quality. A study commissioned by the European Commission on the health implications of road, railway and aircraft noise in the European Union (RIVM, 2014) found that exposure to noise in Europe contributes to about 910,000 additional prevalent cases of hypertension, 43,000 hospital admissions per year and at least 10,000 premature deaths per year related to coronary heart disease and stroke.
In Ireland, noise issues are typically considered across three categories: neighbourhood noise, environmental noise, and noise from EPA- and local authority-regulated sites. Local noise issues, including those from neighbours and local commercial facilities, represent by far the largest source of noise complaints in this country, and are dealt with by local authorities. The EPA, with these local authorities, is currently developing a standardised national guidance document to be used in the management of noise complaints (expected to publish in 2017). Environmental noise from major infrastructure including roads, railways and airports is governed by the EU’s Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC). The preparation of strategic noise maps is a major task associated with this directive and this is currently under way in Ireland. Following completion of the noise maps, the relevant Action Planning Authorities will prepare noise action plans. The action plans are designed to act as a means of managing environmental noise through land use planning, traffic management and control of noise sources. Finally, noise issues can arise at facilities regulated by the EPA and local authorities and, in 2014, 149 noise complaints were received in relation to EPA-licensed sites, compared with 143 in 2013. Nearly 80% of all such complaints related to just five licensed sites. In addition, just two sectors accounted for 90% of complaints: 64% related to the food and drink sector and 26% to the nonhazardous waste transfer stations sector. This information enables targeted enforcement action to be taken against priority sites, where additional resources are then focused.
- Community noise measurement.
- Noise chapters for Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) licence applications.
- Predictive modelling and design of noise reduction measures.
- Noise assessments for inclusion in Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), establishment of baseline noise levels and predictive noise modelling.
- Measurement and assessment of occupational noise exposure.
- Specialist guidance on noise standards and publications; ISO 1996, BS4142, BS 8233, ISO EN 61400-11, ETSU-R-97 etc.
- Vibration Assessments – construction, quarrying, industrial etc.