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The city that is trying to sleep: Paris seeks to cut noise pollution by four decibels

A view of the Grand Palais and the Pont Alexandre III in Paris, April 2024.
A view of the Grand Palais and the Pont Alexandre III in Paris, April 2024. Copyright AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard
Copyright AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard
By Euronews Green
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The French capital has launched a public consultation on how to protect residents’ ears.

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Living in the beautiful hustle and bustle of Paris, one of Europe’s noisiest cities, comes at a cost to the body.

Around 80 per cent of people in the Ile-de-France region are affected by both sound and air pollution levels that exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations, according to joint analysis from the Bruitparif and Airparif organisations. 

Those living in the heart of Paris are particularly bombarded by noise - which is the second-largest environmental driver of ill health in Europe, WHO warns.

To tackle the threat, authorities are seeking to reduce noise across the capital by up to four decibels. Officials launched a public consultation last week to figure out how to hush up both transport and other neighbourhood noises.

How is Paris dampening noise pollution?

Paris’s efforts to quieten down go hand in hand with the city’s green agenda. 

In recent months and years, the council has closed some areas (such as the banks of the Seine) to traffic, penalised the most polluting vehicles, and rolled out hundreds of kilometres of new bike lanes.

All this has already helped muffle the roar of traffic somewhat. A first noise reduction plan reportedly achieved a 20 per cent (two decibel) decrease in road noise between 2015 and 2020.

More specific measures include the installation of sound radars in certain arrondissements to detect and fine the noisiest vehicles. Noise-reducing asphalt has also been trialled on Rue de Courcelles, to the satisfaction of residents.

Under this second noise control plan from 2021 to 2026, the city is targeting a decrease between one and four decibels where possible.

“We are very concerned about being able to both guarantee the dynamism of Paris, its ‘lively’ character and at the same time this fundamental right which is the right to rest and sleep,” the first deputy mayor, Emmanuel Grégoire, told French newspaper 20 Minutes.

The public consultation, which is due to run until October, will identify noise-cutting measures in the environment (aka transport) and in the neighbourhood, like nightlife. 

But the arrival of the Summer Olympics next month will be a unique kind of disruption. Mayor Anne Hidalgo has announced that summer terraces can be used until midnight, compared to the usual curfew of 10pm.

What is the health and social cost of noise pollution?

The social cost of noise in the Ile-de-France region is estimated at €42.6 billion per year by Ademe (the French Environment and Energy Management Agency).

This accounts for the multitude of mental and physical health impacts that noise pollution causes, with impaired sleep linked to stress, poorer work performance and heart problems.

Across the EU, more than 30 per cent of people are exposed to levels exceeding 55 decibels at night - which WHO defines as the threshold for cardiovascular disorders and high blood pressure.

Paris’s new plan aims to get 63 per cent of residents benefitting from WHO’s nighttime standard, up from 54 per cent of citizens today.

Dan Lert, deputy mayor for the ecological transition, will be leading the initiative - bringing together local committees, health and safety authorities and the municipal police.

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