Traffic noise management will be the subject of discussion at a special presentation to be made at the 5th Healthy Cities Conference being held next month in Geelong, Victoria.

The presentation will review existing literature, evidence and policies related to urban noise and combine them to a case study, mapping noise and population exposure levels with an aim to produce knowledge to assist in developing a more informed and unified policy for traffic noise management in Victoria, and to improve the health and quality of life of the population.

Traffic noise has an adverse impact on the health and quality of life of the population exposed to it. Annoyance, sleep disturbance, decreased performance at school or work, stress, hypertension and ischemic heart disease are some of the effects of continued exposure to noise beyond threshold levels.

Despite the known effects of traffic noise, there is still a lack of standards on regulations/policies regarding noise in urban environments. The European Noise Directive recommends a threshold of 55 dB(A) for average day to night (6 am to 12 am) and 50 dB(A) for night time (12 am to 6 am) periods. Based on recent research that identifies the threshold level for waking in the night as 42 dB(A), the World Health Organisation has proposed to decrease the night threshold to 40dB.

Lack of a unified policy with respect to noise regulation in Australia has led to discrepancies in thresholds and policies across different states and regions. In Victoria, for example, segments of the same highway or highways in the same region can have different thresholds for noise level before the implementation of barriers.

Day-to-night thresholds for noise level in Victoria is currently 63 to 68 dB(A), higher than the accepted levels in Europe with no standards applicable for the late night period.

Defining appropriate thresholds and planning measures for noise mitigation for the Australian situation therefore begins with a better understanding of the effects of noise on health.

Dr Anita Peerson, School of Architecture & Building, Deakin University will speak at The 5th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference 2012 being held at the Mercure Hotel and Conference Centre, Geelong, Victoria from 6th to 8th June.