At a glance
- According to the 2022 noise mapping, about 15.2 % of the total population was adversely affected by night-time noise.
- They further showed that 22.1% of the population was exposed to a noise level of above 55 decibels during the day.
- The main source of noise is road traffic. Aircraft noise hardly plays a role in the area assessment.
- Noise that exceeds exposure limits can lead to health problems.
Traffic noise affects the lives of a large number of people in Germany and can have severe effects on health. Noise adversely affects the quality of life and can promote cardiovascular diseases, lead to cognitive impairment, have a negative impact on the sleep quality and be associated with mental disorder. For additional information on the health effects of environmental noise, see the publication UMID 1/2016 (in German only).
In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) published new guidelines on environmental noise for the European Region. These guidelines include source-specific recommendations for different types of transport. Herein, the WHO recommends that the noise exposure from road traffic should not exceed a mean level of 53 decibels (dB(A)) during the day and 45 dB(A) at night to avoid adverse consequences on health. According to the lowest available values used in noise mapping for measuring noise pollution, the values 55 dB(A) during the day and 50 dB(A) at night were used as threshold values for the indicator.
Assessing the development
Around major traffic routes and large airports, as well as in metropolitan areas, about 12.6 million people were affected by traffic noise above 50 decibels (dB(A)) at night, according to the 2022 noise mapping. All day, about 18.4 million people were exposed to traffic noise above 55 dB(A). Thus, 15.2 % of the population was affected by nighttime noise and 22.1 % by day time noise.
The different types of transport produce different noise problems: The main source of noise is road traffic. Overall, only few people are affected by aircraft noise.
In 2021, the European Commission adopted the "Zero Pollution Target" (COM 2021). This stipulates that the number of people suffering from chronic exposure to traffic noise is to be reduced by 30 % by 2030. Compared to 2017, the situation has improved only marginally. The European Commission's zero-pollutant target will therefore very likely be missed. Numerous measures have already been taken. However, further efforts are needed to significantly reduce noise pollution.
The basis for calculating the indicator is noise mapping, which has been enshrined in the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) since June 2005. Noise maps are the basis for informing the public and for noise action plans. In the European Union (EU), noise mapping is done by means of a uniform procedure based on the standards of the European Environmental Noise Directive. Noise maps have to be drawn up for agglomerations, major roads, major railways and major airports.
Detailed calculation instructions can be found in several method documents published by the Federal Government (BMU, BMVI 2021, in German only).
In agglomerations, double counting of people occurs to a small extent along roads with trams, since noise pollution from road traffic and rail traffic are recorded separately.
More detailed information: 'Gesundheitsrisiken durch Umgebungslärm' (in German only).