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Big business tries to stop WHO work on noise

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been under pressure from big business to stop its research and policy work on noise. Fortunately, it has resisted.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been under pressure from big business to stop its research and policy work on noise. Fortunately, it has resisted.

WHO is recommending countries adopt a three-stage approach:

  1. To get outdoor noise levels down below 55 decibels.  The WHO research shows that at levels above 55 decibels noise is considered as dangerous to public health.  This is particularly the case if it occurs at night.
  2. To get outdoor noise levels down to 40 decibels.  The research shows that at levels between 40 and 55 decibels the health of 10- 20% of the population (substantial as far as health professionals are concerned) is affected.
  3. To get outdoor noise down to 30 decibels.  Between 30 and 40 decibels the health of most people is not affected, although there may be a modest impact on vulnerable groups such as children; chronically ill people; and older people.

The WHO has come under intense pressure from industry, particularly the big American multi-nationals, to abandon its noise work altogether. It stood firm in producing these targets, but has scaled down its noise work so that there is now only one person (part-time) responsible for noise work.

It is essential to persuade politicians to put pressure on the senior people in WHO to carry on work on noise or the industry will have won.  One of the reasons for the low-key, almost invisible, launch of the new targets in March was intense pressure from industry.