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Noise seems to be the environmental factor that causes the greatest nuisance. One of the most popular definitions states that noise is any sound that is not welcome, causes nuisance or even harmful in particular conditions. The effect of environmental noise on people is considered by international organisations, in particular the WHO, to be one of the most important health related problems. It is particularly disadvantageous during the night-time. By disturbing sleep, it causes not only the conditions of chronic fatigue, but also impairment of the immune and vegetative systems. With respect to the origins of its source noise may be divided into two general categories like installation (industrial) and traffic noise. Traffic noise includes: road traffic (street), rail traffic and aircraft noise. The major threat influencing the state of acoustic climate both in Poland and the other EU countries is the impact of traffic noise.

One of the most important tasks of all developed countries, Poland included, is the limitation of noise to the permissible levels. Due to the commonness of occurrence of noise exposure, the task is a long-term one, the implementation of which shall be spread over many years (long-term perspective).


The most important middle-term goals to be achieved include:
1. elimination of means of transport, machines and equipment whose noise emissions does not meet European Union standards from production, and gradual elimination of the devices from use;
2. commencement of actions aimed at reduction of noise in urban areas around airports, industrial areas, major roads and major railways to the equivalent noise level not exceeding 55 dB at night-time;
3. introduction of provisions concerning noise control to local land use planning.
in : “National Environmental Policy for 2003-2006 and Its 2010 outlook“


Trends in changes in the acoustic climate are assessed within the state environmental  monitoring on the basis of accumulated results in 5-year periods.

Road traffic noise is related to the car traffic and constitutes the major threat in urbanised areas.


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Fig. 5.4.1. Percentage distribution of exceedances of permitted day-time noise level LAeq D, for road traffic  noise (including street noise) for four time periods (100% - number of measurement results with exceedances) (source: CIEP/SEM)


Comparison of the exceedances distribution indicate a clear rise in noise in the range of 65-70 dB (exceeding the noise limits by 5.1-10 dB) in the years 2007-2008 in comparison to the previous 5-year periods. As regards high and the highest levels (exceeding by more than 10 dB), after the growth of the number of such cases until the end of the 1990s, a slow fall started to be recorded. From that time, a moderate increase in the levels of road traffic noise is accompanied by the positive trend of the fall in the number of cases of the highest levels exceedance (Fig. 5.4.1.).

The numeric illustration of the thesis is shown in the table 5.4.1. The table includes results of the two ways of analysis of the road traffic noise trends. The trends were analyzed with adoption two  criteria of the noise distribution:

  • the first criterion – distribution of the noise levels in two groups: less or higher  than the LAeq D = 60 dB (limit for day-time traffic noise level),
  • the second criterion – distribution of the noise levels in to ranges: less or higher  than the LAeq D = 70 dB (very high exposure to traffic noise).


Tab. 5.4.1. Percentage distributions of the numbers of road traffic noise measurement results with the application of various criteria (source: CIEP/SEM)


Distribution of the noise measurements results’ number [%]

First criterion of the analysis

Second criterion of the analysis

LAeq D < 60 dB

LAeq D ≥ 60 dB

LAeq D < 70 dB

LAeq D ≥ 70 dB






















The above data indicate a clear increase, by ca. 4.8%, in the number of the permitted sound levels exceedances (over 60 dB), with a simultaneous clear fall in the number of cases of sound level exceeding 70 dB.

In 2008 exposure to rail traffic noise was estimated in Poland on the basis of the timetables of trains travelling along the major national railways net of the total length of about 13 000 km. The general assessment indicate that about 500 000 people living along railways are exposed to rail traffic noise at a level of over 60 dB  in the day-time and over 50 dB in the night-time. Further analyses show a slow, though in some cases significant (especially with reference to main lines) decrease in the exposure of population to noise emitted by rail traffic. The basic causes include a decrease in traffic intensity, revitalisation of many sections or railways and systematic, though slow exchange of the rail stock into less noisy.

Air traffic noise in the areas surrounding airports belongs to the most annoying acoustic phenomena in the environment. In Poland, exists one major airport Warszawa-Okęcie, several medium-size ones: Kraków-Balice, Gdańsk-Rębiechowo, Poznań-Ławica and a dozen small, which have the prospects of intensive expansion. The data for the Warszawa-Okęcie airport coming from the noise map of the airport developed in 2007, obtained with the use of the Lden level, that is the day-evening-night level, indicate that the exposed area for conditions corresponding to values of the equivalent noise level LAeqD = 60 dB ranges from 20 to 24 km2.

Industrial noise monitoring carried out in the recent years have shown that there occurs the greatest number of small exceedances up to 5 dB in the day-time. Exceedances in the range from 15 dB to more than 20 dB constitute a small proportion of all examined cases (Fig. 5.4.2.). In the night-time, the situation is more diverse, 71% of exceedances of the noise limits not only are included in the class of exceedances by up to 5 dB, but also in the upper class – exceedances by up to 10 dB. There are also more exceedances of permitted levels in the highest classes, i.e. for exceedances of the permitted levels by 15 dB and more (Fig. 5.4.3.).


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Fig. 5.4.2. Distribution of the exceedances of the permitted noise levels expressed by indicator  LAeq D (dB) measured around industrial plants in particular classes of exceedances in the years 2007-2008 (100% - all plants exceeding the  permissible day time  levels) (source: CIEP/SEM)


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Fig. 5.4.3. Distribution of the exceedances of the permitted noise levels expressed by indicator  LAeq N (dB) measured around industrial plants in particular classes of exceedances in the years 2007-2008 (100% - all plants exceeding the permitted noise night-time levels) (source: CIEP/SEM)

The results of industrial noise surveys in the years 1992-2008, with reference to all examined plants, indicate that, after a fall in the exposure to this kind of noise in mid-1990s, the trend has been stopped. A fall in the exceedance of the noise limits in the day-time is becoming perceptible and, unfortunately, a small increase in the number of exceedances in the night-time (Fig. 5.4.4.).

Fig. 5.4.4. Results of controls of exceedances of permitted equivalent industrial noise levels in four time periods (source: CIEP/SEM)

Studies of the distribution of permitted noise levels exceedance cases, concerning the day-time confirm the constant downwards trend.

According to the studies carried out by voivodeship inspectors for environmental protection, after the decrease in the share of sites not meeting the noise standards that started in 1997, a slight upwards trend of exceedances of the permitted level up to 5 dB was demonstrated, in particular in the night-time. This is in most cases attributable to sites causing relatively low acoustic nuisance, but located near residential area (Fig. 5.4.5. and Fig. 5.4.6.).


Fig. 5.4.5. Distribution number of sites emitting noise which exceeds the equivalent permitted day-time levels (100% - all sites covered by measurements) (source: CIEP/SEM)


Fig. 5.4.6. Distribution of the number of sites emitting noise which exceeds the equivalent permitted night-time levels (100%=all sites covered by measurements) (source: CIEP/SEM)


The state of the acoustic climate is related to the state of social-economic development of the country. Key indicators include those relation in particular with the development of transport infrastructure and reflect changes in the exploited sources. For the most frequent source of environmental noise, i.e. the road traffic (street) noise, the so-called motorisation environmental pressure index, is used in analyses of the acoustic climate. The index links the streams of road traffic to the density of (road) infrastructure, whereby its value becomes proportional to the exposure to noise. The value of the motorisation pressure index has been gradually growing from the start of its development, that is for the total of 10 years, which leads to a constant increase in the exposure to road traffic noise in Poland. The phenomenon is related to the changes in the length of roads of the national communication network and the growth in density of those communication routes, as well as the growth in the number of vehicles used. In 2008, higher values of the index were recorded in the following voivodeships: Śląskie, Małopolskie and Opolskie, and the highest in the Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship (Fig. 5.4.7.).

Fig. 5.4.7. Motorisation pressure index in 2008 (source: CIEP/SEM)

What is one of the basic causes of the recorded trends of changes in the motorisation pressure index, thus also noise, is the rapid growth in the number of vehicles in Poland (Fig. 5.4.8.).


Fig. 5.4.8. Changes in the number of registered motor vehicles (source: CSO)

As regards the pressure caused by the rail traffic, there has been observed virtual stagnation in the development of the railway network in Poland. In the recent years, there has been even recorded a clear tendency to decrease the length of railways. The continuous fall in the length of railways, as well as the number of rail connections, and at the same time actions in the scope of modernisation of the stock and replacement of rails with new ones of a more modern structure (also with reference to minimisation of noise emission) may lead in general to the fall in rail noise nuisance. Nevertheless, many major lines are modernised with the view to enable running trains at a speed of even over 200 km/h. It pertains to, for example, line CMK, E-20 (Warsaw – Poznań – Kunowice) and others. Around such lines, the acoustic climate may deteriorate.

What is a good indicator of environmental pressures are indexes related to the so-called transport work of various means of transport, in particular – relative data on that topic, indicating upwards or downwards trends. To illustrate this the most characteristic trends can be quoted, i.e. a 20% growth (in 2007) in international carriage by road, which is also reflected in national traffic (entering and leaving Poland) of the heaviest road tractors, which are the noisiest, and an about 60% growth (in 2007) in national carriage by air.

The increase in air traffic noise in Poland has been a growing problem. It is related to:

  • the development of regional airports and a significant intensification in air traffic on them, in particular intensification in international connections,
  • growth in the tonnage of the carried cargoes,
  • development of air transport handled by small aeroplanes and helicopters; this kind of air stock is not as noisy as big aeroplanes used for regular flights, but due to their growing numbers and flying at relatively low altitudes, it is becoming a serious acoustic problem.

The predictable growth of the areas exposed to noise around the Lech Wałęsa Airport in Gdańsk constitutes a representative example of the foreseen increase in air noise exposure. The area exposed to noise is believed to grow by about 50% in the day-time in the perspective of some 10 years (depending on the economic development of the state and the region, which entails intensification in air carriage).

The growing number of service and commercial buildings (supermarkets, petrol stations, activities related to entertainment, crafts, home employment, repair shops, etc.) in the recent years has contributed to noise  nuisance. More and more of such activities are located near protected (housing) development. In this situation, even relatively low levels of noise emitted from a source may cause great nuisance for local residents. The growth in acoustic nuisance in the vicinity of residential buildings is related to the development of technology, for example, many offices and shops have air conditioning, which cause deterioration of the noise condition near them.

Noise maps, developed in accordance with the requirements of Noise Directive relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise on the basis of long term indexes Lden and Ln are the source of additional information on the noise conditions of the environment. Noise  maps, showing the current state of the acoustic climate and the population exposed to noise, present indirectly the pressure of particular kinds of noise sources. Starting from 2007, noise maps have been developed in accordance with the provisions for:

  • agglomerations with population of 250 000 (12 cities accounting for ca. 30% of population in Poland),
  • sections of major roads, where more than 6 million cars travel per year (ca. 1500 km of roads in Poland),
  • sections of major railways, where more 60 000 trains travel per year,
  • airports with over 50 000 air operations per year.

Due to the very limited scope of the examination of rail noise (ca. 17 km of sections of railways), the obtained results are of almost no significance for national estimates.

The results of studies of air noise in Warsaw – the Frederic Chopin Airport, as the only major airport in Poland, are of high importance for those living in the vicinity.

For the total population of the 12 examined agglomerations, the average share of people exposed to excessive noise:

  • according to the assessments performed on the basis of indicator Lden – ca. 36%,
  • according to the assessments performed on the basis of indicator Ln – ok. 38%.

The greatest number of population living in conditions of exceedance of the noise limits takes place in Warsaw, then come Bydgoszcz, Gdynia, and Lublin. On the other hand, the best acoustic conditions, in the light of the results of noise mapping, exist in Łódź, Poznań and Kraków (Fig. 5.4.9.).


Fig. 5.4.9. Distribution of population of particular agglomerations (population over 250 000) exposed to road noise at a level of Lden > 60 dB and Ln > 50 dB (source: acoustic maps for cities >250 000 population)

The non-urban population exposed to excessive road noise along the most used transport routes is presented in the following diagrams (Fig. 5.4.10. and Fig. 5.4.11.).


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Fig. 5.4.10. Distribution  of population exposed to noise from non-urban roads, assessed with Lden > 60 dB (100% corresponds to 230 000 population exposed at all examined sections of roads altogether) (source: CIEP/SEM)


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Fig. 5.4.11. Distribution of population exposed to noise from non-urban roads, assessed with Ln > 50 dB (100% corresponds to 440 000 population exposed at all examined sections of roads altogether) (source: CIEP/SEM)

The level of risk of excessive noise is in this case much lower (in comparison to agglomerations) and reaches the number of less than 500 000 population. It should, however, be taken into account that the studies covered less than 5% of national and voivodeship roads and possibly others causing high nuisance, thus the represented sample reflected only a fraction of the phenomenon.

The results of the development of noise maps in the EU countries (including Norway), developed obligatorily, in compliance with the regulations of Noise Directive, have been submitted to the European Commission. A qualitative analysis of the obtain information reveals that, according to average national data, Poland does not belong to countries with significant noise exposure. The shares of population at risk of noise in Poland against the EU average are illustrated in the two diagrams below (Fig. 5.4.12. and Fig. 5.4.13.).


Fig. 5.4.12. Percentage distribution of exposure to road traffic noise of EU residents in agglomerations with population of over 250 000 (source: EEA)


Fig. 5.4.13. Distribution of exposure to road traffic noise of Polish residents in agglomerations with population of over 250,000 (source: EEA)


Reduction of the exposure caused by noise is mostly related to the noise sources. In that scope, significant achievements have been recorded, especially in relation to silencing road and rail vehicles, the application of modern road surfaces and rails, the introduction to exploitation of a modern generation of transport aircraft of reduced noise generation, the introduction to the market of new industrial devices and installations with reduced level of acoustic power, including additional noise reducing solutions (sound suppressors, casings etc.). The above-mentioned technical actions of a basic character are necessary for long-term activity related to limitation of environmental noise. They are not, however, sufficient at present, due to the large number of exploited noise sources, which is growing fast.

The spatial scale of the phenomenon of degradation of the acoustic environment by means of transport in particular road transport, requires the application of efficient solutions and consistent actions. The directions of those actions and the methods of proceeding are mainly determined by Noise Directive. The risk of traffic noise is actually so significant in all EU countries that it has become necessary to establish long-term programmes of protection actions. There is no country with financial ability to quickly bring the parameters of the acoustic climate to the limit values. At present, the centre of gravity of fighting noise has been moved from ad hoc actions to implementation of noise protection programmes, which must list the proposed protection actions.

Beside the above-mentioned long-term programme actions, there are applied, as far as possible (mostly within modernisation and rebuilding of transport routes) ad hoc actions, such as:

  • building ring-roads,
  • limitations in traffic and other actions related to traffic engineering (setting speed limitations have been the most frequent measures recently),
  • building acoustic screens,
  • application of increased insulation of windows,
  • application of silent surfaces (that is, unfortunately, marginal action in Poland, but with a prospect of development).

Counteractions in the scope of industrial noise are mainly related to the introduction of a modern machine park and elimination of old, annoying industrial sites.

In local land use plans, the provisions considering protection against noise must be taken into account, with indication of areas of limited development around airports, industrial areas and major roads and main railways, where the equivalent noise level amounting to 55 dB in the night-time is exceeded.


Trends in environmental noise in Poland indicate, on the one hand, an increase in the risk of traffic noise and, on the other hand, a reduction of the growth and existence of downwards trends with respect to industrial noise.

The upwards trends in traffic noise are most of all true for road- and air traffic noise. The growth in the risk of road traffic noise is related above all to the rapid increase in the number of cars in Poland over the last 15 years. Despite the already recorded tendency to approach the level of saturation, the growth is still significant. In the case of air traffic noise, there are recorded growing trends in the level of noise due to taking over some of international traffic by local, intensely extended airports. Furthermore, there is observed an increased in the number of national connections from airlines operating small aeroplanes, the “air taxis”, helicopters, etc. In the case of industrial noise, the past actions seem right and there seems to be a chance for gradual elimination of that type of nuisance.