A new noise pollution map lets Londoners hear how loud their street is compared to the rest of the city.
The interactive tool allows people to listen in on the sound levels of different areas – many of which exceed recommended limits – and gives an overall picture of noise in the capital.
A UN report in February branded London the noisiest city in Europe, while the UK Government estimates that the ‘social cost’ of the problem totals somewhere between £ 7 billion and £ 10 billion every year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has claimed that noise pollution is second only to air pollution in terms of environmental health threats in Europe – with around one in three people being negatively affected on the continent.
Hotspots for London noise pollution appear to be on the northern, eastern and western fringes of the capital, notably near Heathrow Airport and around the M25.
Previous research by countryside charity CPRE suggested that parks in Sutton and Richmond are the capital’s quietest, while Enfield, Westminster and Lambeth are the worst affected.
Now campaigners are calling for urgent action to tackle the issue.
Residents can zoom in on their own street on the London Noisy City Map, created by climate charity Possible and Jetpack AI, using data from the environment department (DEFRA).
The charity say the impact of noise pollution has been ‘overlooked for too long’ and wants people to be able to imagine a modern city without the constant drone of traffic.
It hopes that the ‘sonification experience’ will allow users to visualize and listen to the scale of the problem, with the help of a decibel (dB) measuring scale.
Possible’s head of car free cities, Hirra Khan Adeogun, told Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s well known how mass private car ownership damages the climate and contributes to toxic air.
‘But the damage London’s traffic noise is having on the health of its residents has been overlooked for too long – with the last noise pollution strategy in London being 2004.’
She argued: ‘Megacities like Paris are showing us up – addressing the issue seriously through proper monitoring and the use of innovative solutions like sound sensors, while taking big strides to reduce car dominance more widely.
‘London urgently needs to take a leaf out of their book, reducing traffic and revamping our soundscape.’
Possible also highlighted how noise pollution levels are regularly exceeding the recommendations made by the WHO in 2018.
Its guidance suggests that average noise exposure should only be 53dB – but the UN report showed that some Londoners experience 86 dB.
Noise pollution has been strongly linked to increased levels of anxiety – which has knock-on effects on circulatory, heart and mental health.
A 2018 WHO analysis estimated that for every 10 decibel-increase in noise exposure, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases by around 8%.
Campaigners add that noise pollution can impact communication and reduce 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 London Mayor Sadiq Khan to urgently produce a strategy on noise pollution and take action to address the issue.
The Noise Abatement Society made a similar call.
Its chief executive, Gloria Elliott OBE, added: ‘Noise from road traffic is the largest single cause of noise pollution in London and a blight on those who live, work and visit our capital city.
‘The government has found the estimated social cost of road traffic noise to be between £ 7bn and £ 10bn per year.
‘Given the staggering health and wellbeing impacts it’s paramount that solutions to noise are developed together with all environmental issues.’
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: ‘Sadiq is committed to tackling all forms of pollution and has a long-term plan for dealing with noise from transport which involves better management of transport systems, new greener transport and better town planning and building 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, along with air pollution, climate emissions and congestion.
‘Sadiq has introduced 270km of safe and accessible cycle lanes in the past five years and worked with London’s boroughs to introduce Low Traffic Neighborhoods across the city, which not only tackle filthy air but make our streets quieter and safer.
‘The Mayor’s London Plan, published in its final form in 2021, sets out specific approaches that all development in London must follow to reduce the impacts noise pollution can have on health and wellbeing.’
A similar map for the whole of England can be found here.
Defra has been contacted for comment.
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