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close this bookGuidelines for Community Noise (WHO, 1995, 95 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentPreface
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentExecutive Summary
View the document1. Introduction
Open this folder and view contents2. Noise sources and their measurement
Open this folder and view contents3. Adverse Health Effects Of Noise
Open this folder and view contents4. Guideline Values
Open this folder and view contents5. Noise Management
Open this folder and view contents6. Conclusions And Recommendations
View the documentIllustrations


Community noise (also called environmental noise, residential noise or domestic noise) is defined as noise emitted from all sources except noise at the industrial workplace. Main sources of community noise include road, rail and air traffic, industries, construction and public work, and the neighbourhood. The main indoor sources of noise are ventilation systems, office machines, home appliances and neighbours. Typical neighbourhood noise comes from premises and installations related to the catering trade (restaurant, cafeterias, discotheques, etc.); from live or recorded music; sport events including motor sports; playgrounds; car parks; and domestic animals such as barking dogs. Many countries have regulated community noise from road and rail traffic, construction machines and industrial plants by applying emission standards, and by regulating the acoustical properties of buildings. In contrast, few countries have regulations on community noise from the neighbourhood, probably due to the lack of methods to define and measure it, and to the difficulty of controlling it. In large cities throughout the world, the general population is increasingly exposed to community due to the sources mentioned above and the health effects of these exposures are considered to be a more and more important public health problem. Specific effects to be considered when setting community noise guidelines include: interference with communication; noise-induced hearing loss; sleep disturbance effects; cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects; performance reduction effects; annoyance responses; and effects on social behaviour.

Since 1980, the World Health Organization (WHO) has addressed the problem of community noise. Health-based guidelines on community noise can serve as the basis for deriving noise standards within a framework of noise management. Key issues of noise management include abatement options; models for forecasting and for assessing source control action; setting noise emission standards for existing and planned sources; noise exposure assessment; and testing the compliance of noise exposure with noise immission standards. In 1992, the WHO Regional Office for Europe convened a task force meeting which set up guidelines for community noise. A preliminary publication of the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, on behalf of WHO, appeared in 1995. This publication served as the basis for the globally applicable Guidelines for Community Noise presented in this document. An expert task force meeting was convened by WHO in March 1999 in London, United Kingdom, to finalize the guidelines.

The Guidelines for Community Noise have been prepared as a practical response to the need for action on community noise at the local level, as well as the need for improved legislation, management and guidance at the national and regional levels. WHO will be pleased to see that these guidelines are used widely. Continuing efforts will be made to improve its content and structure. It would be appreciated if the users of the Guidelines provide feedback from its use and their own experiences. Please send your comments and suggestions on the WHO Guidelines for Community Noise - Guideline document to the Department of the Protection of the Human Environment, Occupational and Environmental Health, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland (Fax: +41 22-791 4123, e-mail: