Field: Sustainable living
Global Technical function: Managing
Technical Function Unit: Data analysing, Disseminating, Identifying, Networking, Strategic planning
Geographic Area: United Kingdom

ENNAH

Assuming that environmental noise may be a source of many diseases, managing a global research initiative to support the noise policy at the European level represents a huge challenge. To do so, the European Network on Noise and Health project (or ENNAH),  which was funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP 7 – ENV), aims to build a critical mass of resources all over Europe by networking interdisciplinary researchers to provide up-to-date tools. The initiative focuses on the environmental noise sources and health assessment, specifically by building new models that bring together the effects of noise of transport system and air pollution on health.

Within the European Union, almost 80 million people suffer from environmental noise, i.e. noise coming from traffic and industrial or recreational activities. Through research, a link between illnesses, such as hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, and noise exposure has been made. There remains a need to further strengthen the evidence for associations between noise and health and the research, up until now, has not comprehensively assessed the interactions between the adverse effects of noise, air pollution and related health outcomes. This incomplete information does not allow policy makers to make the relevant decisions in terms of priorities.

To address this issue, the present large scale initiative (funded under FP7, a grant funding programme) has brought together 33 partners from 16 European countries (e.g. The Netherlands, Italy, Greece, France , United Kingdom, Germany, Serbia) in order to take advantage of the European-wide resources and create efficient synergies.

With an exhaustive literature review, new health outcomes that have not been assessed in relation to noise exposure, such as respiratory diseases (asthma, chronic bronchitis), diabetes mellitus and health status, are therefore better known. The comprehensive data analysing approach focuses on the health effects of environmental co-stressors (e.g. air pollution) and effect modifiers (e.g. room orientation, sound insulation). Moreover, identifying the various gaps in the current scientific knowledge that encompasses the areas of noise exposure assessment, the various confounding factors and health outcomes, highlight where and how further research should be carried out.

Estimating noise exposure aims to achieve a strategic planning assessment map for health studies as well as an identification of novel methods for exposure assessment. In the same way, in order to identify the major confounding factors that may occur between populations and / or areas, a set of standardized methods for measurement or assessment are proposed, especially concerning the interaction between air pollution and noise exposure on health. For example, noise and air pollution exposure of a population living in a typical street near a road segment with different transport intensities are analysed at different times of the day. Finally, a particular focus is given to the most recent research on noise and health including hypertension and cardiovascular disease; mental health; cognition and learning; sleep; annoyance; psychophysiological stress indicators such as measurement of long-term hormonal responses and immune functions, reproductive health and hearing loss.

The present support action provides a mature methodology so that the Readiness Level is 9 on the TRL scale. The project output backs up the policy makers, who are concerned by the noise effects and related health outcomes, in implementing noise action plans for a sustainable living achievement. These deployments may occur either at the pan-European level through the further development of the Noise Directive or at regional levels in several member states. Hence, the project is of paramount practical importance by disseminating and highlighting the policies that should be prioritized. This assessment has a major impact for transport policy for instance by helping the policy makers in ranking the priorities for reducing noise and air pollution (or both) as well as in developing new transport and in planning mitigation action.