The impacts of traffic emissions and noise on public health:
A brief review and some policy options
For the Dutch environmental organisation Stichting Natuur en Milieu CE has prepared a compact, readable and scientific review of the public health impacts of traffic emissions and noise. This is an area of shifting sands: many steps have already been taken to reduce noxious emissions, with additional measures scheduled, but at the same time our understanding of the impacts of those emissions continues to grow, often prompting a need for new measures.
Since the publication of several landmark US studies in the mid-1990s the long-term impact of extremely fine particulate pollution (PM10 and PM2.5) has come to dominate the debate on traffic health impacts. The premature mortality associated with these particles is approximately half the mortality due to road accidents. Other impacts on public health (short-term effects, impacts of non-particulate emissions, noise nuisance) are fairly modest by comparison. In the Netherlands the estimated ‘value’ or ‘price’ of these impacts to society runs to several billion euros a year, implying that the same sort of money should be spent resolving the problem. Although there are many conceivable means of addressing the issue, further study of the precise causal chains through which traffic emissions arise is recommended.