Excessive decibels deafening Athenians

Noise puts one in four Athenian residents through an endurance test every day. Cars and roads are the main culprits, worsened recently by preparations for the Olympic Games and the re-routing of traffic they have necessitated. According to the World Health Organization, more than half the population of Europe live in noisy areas, and a third of them have their nightly sleep disrupted by noise. Unacceptable Studies by the Environment Ministry (YPEHODE) show that at least one in four Athens residents live in areas with unacceptably high levels of traffic noise. On major arteries such as Pireos, Kallirois, Kifissias, Filolaou, Lenorman and Kifissou, the noise level – averaged out over a whole day – is in excess of 80 decibels. As these measurements were taken before the airport was transferred from Hellenikon to Spata and before the infrastructure projects currently in progress in preparation for the 2004 Olympic Games were started, the noise level in many areas has worsened since then. «Noise levels in some areas have changed because of work on pedestrian zones and other projects,» architect and transport specialist Kyriakos Psychas, from YPEHODE’s noise suppression department told Kathimerini. «For instance, now that the airport is no longer at Hellenikon, noise levels in the area have fallen. By contrast, the acoustic environment has deteriorated in the Spata area,» he explained. «On main roads such as Patission, noise levels haven’t changed much because traffic is still very heavy,» said Psychas, «and the fact that new model cars are quieter is counterbalanced by the fact that they go very fast.» Over the next few months YPEHODE will be implementing a program of charting noise in Athens and Thessaloniki in line with new EU harmonized legislation. The first noise maps are expected in 2005. Significant differences in the city’s acoustic environment are caused by the workplace (workshops, health services) and air conditioners. YPEHODE’s noise suppression department conducts about 600 inspections a year in response to complaints, usually from private individuals, and most of which are about wrongly installed air conditioners that are noisy. «There are stipulated limits to noise at places of work as well as from the projects that are currently in progress, according to which noise must not exceed 70 decibels,» says Psychas. «It is very important that everyone knows their rights and complains to the appropriate authorities about infringements of the noise regulations.»