One million Portuguese residents in Portugal, which means about 12% percent of the population, “are exposed to noise levels that induce sleep disturbances”, according to the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), in last week’s response to Lusa. However, APA says that estimates are incomplete, since not all the strategic noise maps (MER) required for the cities of Lisbon, Porto, Amadora, Odivelas, Oeiras and Matosinhos have been delivered yet, as weel as for large airline, rail and road transport infrastructures. Of the six domestic cities above that should provide noise maps, according to European standards, only Lisbon and Oeiras did so. According to the same data, “17% of the population living in continental Portugal is exposed to levels associated with moderate discomfort” with regard to noise.
The rules and acceptable noise levels are set by European standards and national law, the General Regulation on Noise, which is based on values recommended by the World Health Organization. Data from the European Environment Agency reported that about 20 million Europeans are affected by environmental noise, particularly from transport, and that 125 million Europeans, i.e. one in four Europeans, are exposed to road traffic noise, which in many cases reaches higher levels than the maximum limit set. High noise levels have several effects on health besides sleep disorders, such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease, thus being linked to about 10,000 premature deaths and 43,000 hospital admissions a year in Europe, according to the European Environment Agency.