Health in decibels

Noise produced by construction projects for next year’s Olympic Games and how it affects the quality of life in the city is the subject of a program being conducted by the National Center for the Environment and Sustainable Development (EKPAA), in cooperation with Thessaloniki University and the Environment and Public Works Ministry. «The whole city is working to prepare for the Games, but very few people have considered the effect this noise is having on our lives,» said Michalis Modinos, EKPAA’s president. According to a World Health Organization survey, 30 percent of Europeans experience high noise levels on a daily basis, while 46 percent of Greece’s population is exposed to 66 decibels (considered just bearable). The permissible level for outdoor areas is 65 decibels. «The problem,» according to Modinos, «is that we do not realize the magnitude of the problem and we treat noise as an unavoidable fact of life.» A large sector of Greece’s population experiences these effects daily. Although there is not much documented evidence on exactly the type of effect noise has on public health, the fact is that it is felt in all sectors of life. According to various studies, lower levels of productivity due to an inability to concentrate have been observed among people who live or work near nightclubs, airports, construction sites or even tourist areas. «It is daily activities that usually cause noise pollution,» according to Kyriakos Psychas, head of the Environment and Public Works Ministry’s department against noise pollution. According to allegations from the public, air-conditioning units are particularly annoying (accounting for 30 percent of all environmental noise sources), followed by machinery in establishments such as cafes, restaurants and supermarkets. There is legislation that defines specific limits of noise emissions. The problem, once again, is the lack of adequate inspections. Both the ministry and EKPAA claim the best way to deal with the problem is to raise awareness among a Mediterranean people who feel that in an age of increased energy consumption, the loudness of the noise one creates is a reflection of one’s success and prosperity. Athens’s noisiest districts Areas of the city in which traffic noise comes close to what is considered an unacceptable level of 78 decibels, according to recent measurements by the Environment and Public Works Ministry, are the following: The junction of Alexandras Avenue and Patission Street, as well as both of these arteries along their entire length, Vassilissis Sofias, Vassileos Constantinou, Vassilissis Amalias and Vassilissis Olgas avenues, Kallirois and Frantzi streets, Syngrou Avenue, Irodou Attikou Street, all the roads around Omonia Square, Academias, Stadiou and Panepistimiou streets, Katehaki Avenue between the intersections with Kifissias and Mesogeion avenues, Mesogeion, Constantinoupoleos and Vouliagmenis avenues, Kifissou and Athinon avenues and Iera Odos.

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