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Noise costs billions

Noise costs the French state more than 150 billion euros every year. Physical and mental illnesses, but also the depreciation of property are included here. Traffic is an immense contributor to noise. A culture of noise management should help.


Big cities are dirty and hectic, and they are noisy. In large French cities, the cost of this noise, much of which is also caused by car traffic, is enormous. According to a new study by the National Noise Council (CNB) and the French Agency for Ecological Change (Ademe), they amount to 155.7 billion euros. For comparison, that's how much the state spends on the education system and the army combined. Even the Corona stimulus package does not come close to this sum. Since the last study in 2016, the costs associated with noise have also increased by almost 100 billion euros.

Calculated into the costs were the far-reaching health consequences ranging from sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes to psychological problems such as learning difficulties, and also the medication and hospitalisation or loss of employment associated with the illnesses. Decreased property values also account for a large proportion of the costs.

The aim now is to create a culture of noise management that addresses the three main contributors: Traffic, Neighbourhood and Work. Establishing more low emission zones and reduced speed on major roads are two of the measures discussed. In addition, new road occupants are to be tested. Since 2020, the organisation Cerema, part of the Ministry of Environment, Sustainable Development and Energy, has been researching together with the city of Limoges on a road surface made of cork, which is supposed to be significantly quieter than conventional asphalt. 

Since electric cars are much quieter than internal combustion engines, they could help to reduce traffic noise. However, it will be a long time before there are enough electric cars on the roads for this effect to be really noticeable. Noise protection zones, as they already exist in Ausserfern in Austria, could complement the environmental zones to provide relief in heavily polluted areas. Entirely traffic-calmed zones, like the ones that are becoming more and more common in Paris, could also help.

What is certain is that the state must do something. For too long, the effects and costs of noise have gone unobserved. If the health of citizens is not enough of an incentive to reduce noise, at least the enormous costs that the state has to incur every year should be.