How noise negatively affects our health and quality of life

It’s never quiet in a 24-hour economy. For many people, the brutal coronary bombings were an eye-opener. Calm reigned over the towns and villages that seemed to take us back to earlier times. But make no mistake, the pause button was only pressed for a moment. The road has been just as crowded since September as it was before the pandemic, with heavy inputs through freight traffic. And if there was indeed a shift to shared cars and bikes in passenger traffic, it would still be modest for the time being. The number of passenger cars registered in Belgium hit a record high again this year, after falling in 2020.

In addition to traffic – on road, rail and air – wind turbines and recreational activities are the main sources of noise pollution in densely populated areas. The World Health Organization once calculated that about 40 percent of Europeans are exposed to a lot of traffic noise (more than 55 decibels). The same report found that 20 and 30 percent of the European population, respectively, suffer from excessive values ​​during the day (more than 65 dB) and at night (more than 55 dB). By comparison, a conversation between two people in a room is up to 50 decibels.

The consequences for public health are negative. Screening the population is challenging, because several reasons always play a role. However, noise pollution is increasingly associated with cardiovascular disease and thus premature mortality. Noise triggers feelings of stress. There is an evolutionary explanation for this. For our ancestors, noise was a meaningful signal. It was a sign of potential danger. The fight-or-flight response produced by noise is accompanied by long-term hormonal reactions that are harmful to the vascular system. Unfortunately, we cannot disrupt our hearing.

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to file about annoying noises, eosLiberator Ilse Boeren from the Belgian capital, one of the highest places in the country, to a quiet area along the Scheldt located 30 kilometers to the north. The densely populated Brussels is intertwined with roads, train and tram tracks. Most of the airlines are located at Brussels Airport above the capital. Brussels Environment measures traffic noise at 22 locations and therefore has fairly accurate rendering maps. It is up to politics to deal with this.

It’s also not quite as quiet in the quiet area of ​​Bornem, with the area’s road congestion and freight congested in the Scheldt. But the sounds of nature prevail. This is one of the ten Flemish Quiet regions, and the only one located directly in the so-called Flemish Diamonds (Ghent-Antwerp-Leuven-Brussels). Other areas are scattered in less densely populated areas of Limburg or East and West Flanders. Standards are easier there. The Flemish government wants in the coming years to focus on protected oases in urban environments. Like quiet areas, they mainly contribute to raising awareness. I hope it doesn’t stop there.

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