Pollution

Impacts of noise pollution in Europe

Car congestion leads to higher Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions that causes climate change. Cars also cause a lot of noise pollution. Excessive noise can lead to many health problems. But how frequent is this phenomenon in European cities?

In 2021, around 75 per cent of the EU population lived in cities and the majority of them are experiencing daily noise pollution. Based on the latest report of the European Environmental Agency, on average around 15 per cent of the countries’ total population is exposed to higher noise levels (above 55 dBs, which is similar to the sound level of a buzzing refrigerator) during daytime. How does Malta compare? Above EU average; noise pollution affects approximately 22 per cent of the population.

Health damage caused by noise pollution is poorly studied. Above 80-85 decibels (which is as loud as the sound of a motorcycle, train or lawnmower) can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss.

Apart from the auditory system, other organs can experience deterioration even at lower frequencies. These noise components can be particularly dangerous, as it is harder to identify them, and they can be persistent. Noise pollutions affects people with chronic illnesses, the elderly and infants the most.

In Malta, incessant road traffic and construction lead to a huge pressure on citizens. Amplified noise levels in a small island state can worsen local’s well-being to a great extent. The latest available noise map by the Environment and Resources Authority of Malta, shows a high level of noise pollution (with extensive zones above 60 dBs) during daytime in Valletta, Floriana, Msida, Gżira, Sliema, San Ġwann, Birkirkara, Qormi, Marsa, Tarxien, Paola and other localities.

A recent initiative, as part of the H2020 -funded VARCITIES EU project, wants to assess noise pollution in Gżira and reduce it. The project focuses of Rue D’Argens, one of the busiest roads in Malta’s central region.

The process involves pre- and post-intervention measurements by a handheld noise-meter device at three different times of the day at a chosen point of the street. Interventions include the implementation of NBS solutions in the area of ​​Gżira and workshops in a primary school on educating children about their sound environment to reduce sound levels. This area is only one small part of the problem; much of Malta needs to reduce noise pollution for all our health.

Sound Bites

• Biologists found that grass in the salt marshes of Georgia has bacteria in its root and the surrounding soil, which provides the plants with nutrients. This work by researchers from the Georgia Tech School of Biological Sciences highlights the importance of soil microorganisms for the entire ecosystem .

• Brains of social animals have specific neurons that drive competitive behaviour. Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital found that in mice, these neurons store the results of social competition. Their manipulation influences social behaviour.

For more science news, listen to Radio Mocha on Radju Malta and www.fb.com/RadioMochaMalta/.

DID YOU KNOW?

• Norway has the most electric cars in proportion to population.

• 25 to 30 per cent of humanity is immune to hangover because of genetics.

• Blue whales can consume more than 400,000 calories during a single meal.

• Most South Korean parents hire experts to invent their child’s name.

• One litre of the most expensive bottled water costs $1,390.

For more trivia, see: www.um.edu.mt/think.

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