Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Policy implications of the RANCH findings

The RANCH project provides a robust evidence base to inform pan-European noise policy based on health and cognitive effects in children. The following policy recommendations are suggested, based on the evidence from the RANCH studies.

It is recommended that action be taken at the European level to provide healthy educational environments for children attending high noise exposed schools. In the planning process, noise exposure should be considered with other environmental aspects. It is recommended that new schools should not be planned close to existing airports, where noise exposure exceeds the WHO (2000) recommended levels for external noise. It is advised that measures should be implemented to reduce noise in existing schools, exposed to high levels of noise. The effects of sound insulation at school on children's cognitive performance should be investigated in further research. If sound insulation is found to have ameliorative effects on impairments in cognitive performance, steps should be taken to sound insulate those schools exposed to the potentially harmful levels of aircraft noise. Noise annoyance responses are evidence of impairment of quality of life. Sound insulation in schools, by reducing indoor noise levels, may help to reduce annoyance in children from both aircraft and road traffic noise. Reading comprehension and annoyance responses can be used to indicate the presence of aircraft noise effects in children and these could be considered the priority for action.

Further research should be carried out to examine the role of noise interference in teacher communication in the causation of noise effects and the possible additional effects of classroom acoustics on children's cognitive performance. Studies should be carried out on whether cognitive impairments diminish if children are removed from noisy environments or whether cognitive impairments increase if children remain in noisy environments. Such studies would help to test the effects of aircraft noise on cognitive performance and discover whether noise-related effects are temporary or permanent. The RANCH project provides a robust evidence base to inform pan-European noise policy based on health and cognitive effects in children. Our data provides policy makers with evidence to include with other factors in deciding on safe levels taking into account multiple sources of evidence.

Further work is required to agree the recommended levels of noise exposure for children based on the RANCH data. On the evidence of this study low levels of road traffic noise will not interfere in children's school - work. The results of this study suggest that similar noise limits and guidelines on aircraft noise for children can be applied across Europe as regards daytime and evening exposures. The implementation of any such noise limit and guidelines would require the long-term monitoring of health, annoyance and cognitive outcomes for children. Tools developed in RANCH can be used to monitor these outcomes. Comprehensive studies should be carried out on the health effects on children (and adults) of the distribution of aircraft noise exposure over day and night and over the weekdays. It is important for children exposed to adverse environmental conditions such as aircraft and road traffic noise to have quiet, relaxing areas at or near home for psychological restoration.

Further research is needed to understand and explore the health promoting possibilities of restorative quiet environments for children and adults for additional environmental stressors, as well as noise. Such research should be conducted in the spirit of integrated intervention, that is to eliminate, reduce or avoid children's adverse effects of noise either by reduction or elimination of the noise or by prevention or by stopping the progression of adverse effects (school performance and health). Moreover, the research should focus on identifying the most prominent components of healthy urban and suburban environments for children's development. By improving urban and suburban environments it is potentially possible to also improve children's health.

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INCAR - CSIC
Francisco Pintado Fe, 26
33011 Oviedo
Spain
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