The European Commission states that environmental noise, caused by traffic, industrial and recreational activities is one of the main local environmental problems in Europe and the source of an increasing number of complaints from the public. Generally however action to reduce environmental noise has had a lower priority than that taken to address other environmental problems such as air and water pollution.
They go on to state that the data available on noise exposure is generally poor in comparison to that collected to measure other environmental problems and often difficult to compare due to the different measurement and assessment methods. However it has been estimated that around 20 percent of the Union’s population or close on 80 million people suffer from noise levels that scientists and health experts consider to be unacceptable, where most people become annoyed, where sleep is disturbed and where adverse health effects are to be feared. An additional 170 million citizens are living in so-called "grey areas" where the noise levels are such to cause serious annoyance during the daytime.