A new noise pollution map is letting Londoners hear how noisy their street is compared to the rest of the city.
The interactive tool allows people to listen to noise levels in different areas – many of which exceed recommended limits – and gives an overall picture of noise in the capital.
A February UN report dubbed London the noisiest city in Europe, while the UK government estimates the “social cost” of the problem is around £7 billion to £10 billion each year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has claimed that noise pollution is the second most common environmental health threat in Europe after air pollution – affecting around one in three people on the continent.
Hotspots for noise pollution in London appear to be on the north, east and west fringes of the capital, particularly around Heathrow Airport and around the M25.
Previous research by rural charity CPRE suggested that parks in Sutton and Richmond are the capital’s quietest, while Enfield, Westminster and Lambeth have been worst hit.
Now activists are calling for urgent action to address the problem.
Local residents can zoom in on their own street on the London Noisy City Map, created by climate organization Possible and Jetpack AI using data from the Department for the Environment (DEFRA).
The charity says the effects of noise pollution have been “overlooked for too long” and want people to be able to imagine a modern city without the constant roar of traffic.
It hopes the “sonification experience” will allow users to visualize and hear the magnitude of the problem using a decibel (dB) meter scale.
Hirra Khan Adeogun, Possible’s Head of Car Free Cities, told Metro.co.uk: “It is well known how mass private car ownership damages the climate and contributes to toxic air.
“But the damage London’s traffic noise is doing to the health of its residents has been overlooked for too long – the last noise abatement strategy in London dates back to 2004.”
She argued: “Mega-cities like Paris are showing us – they are seriously tackling the problem, conducting appropriate surveillance and deploying innovative solutions such as sound sensors, while taking huge strides to reduce auto-dominance on a broad scale.
“London urgently needs to take a leaf out of her book, reduce traffic and refresh our soundscape.”
Possible also highlighted that noise exposure regularly exceeds the WHO’s 2018 recommendations.
Its guidelines suggest average noise exposure should be just 53dB – but the UN report showed some Londoners are experiencing 86dB.
Noise pollution has been strongly linked to increased levels of anxiety – affecting circulatory, heart and mental health.
A 2018 WHO analysis estimates that for every 10 decibel increase in noise exposure, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases by about 8%.
Activists add that noise pollution can interfere with communication and affect performance at work or school, as well as children’s development.
Meanwhile, the sounds of nature – like water and birds – have been linked to reduced stress levels.
Possible wants the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to urgently create a noise pollution strategy and take action to address the problem.
The Noise Abatement Society made a similar call.
Managing Director, Gloria Elliott OBE, added: “Road traffic noise is the single biggest cause of noise pollution in London and a nuisance to those who live, work and visit our capital city.
“The Government has put the estimated social cost of road traffic noise at between £7 billion and £10 billion a year.
“Given the enormous impact it has on health and well-being, it is paramount that solutions to noise are developed along with all environmental issues.”
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said: “Sadiq is committed to tackling all forms of pollution and has a long-term plan to deal with traffic noise, which includes better management of transport systems, new greener modes of transport and better urban planning and design.
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“The Mayor’s transport strategy focuses on the need to reduce car dependency – the most effective way to reduce noise pollution, air pollution, climate emissions and congestion.
“Sadiq has deployed 270km of safe and accessible cycle lanes over the past five years and has worked with London Boroughs to introduce low traffic areas across the city, not only tackling polluted air but making our streets quieter and safer.
“The Mayor’s London Plan, which will be published in its final form in 2021, sets out specific approaches that all developments in London must follow in order to reduce the impact that noise pollution can have on health and well-being.”
A similar map for all of England can be found here.
Defra has been contacted for comment.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/05/noise-pollution-map-shows-worst-affected-areas-in-london-16759098/ Noise pollution map shows the most affected areas in London