Noise has intensified considerably with the development of industrialisation and urbanisation, in particular through the use of increasingly numerous and noisy machines in road transport and air transport. Noise has been the subject of studies which have shown that, depending on its intensity and nature, it gives rise to certain consequences for the person exposed to it, from discomfort to psychological, or even pathological, effects. Action needed to be taken at European level, as measures taken nationally to reduce noise nuisances could effect the functioning of the common market by creating technical barriers to trade in products subject to anti-noise specifications [see section 6.2] or distortions of competition between noisy plants, on which different investment or operating costs would be imposed. Although based first and foremost on commercial and economic considerations, the harmonisation of national rules constitutes an instrument for combating noise nuisances in the European Union. Thus a Directive on components and characteristics of two or three-wheel motor vehicles is aimed at reducing the level of pollutant emissions, while limiting the sound output of these particularly noisy vehicles [Directive 97/24].
A significant source of noise is aircraft, the number of which increases each year. Sound pollution in this area needed to be limited, but without giving rise to distortions of competition between aircraft manufacturers and between users (airlines). Therefore, the common rules in the field of civil aviation limit noise emissions from subsonic aircraft, which land in the territory of the EU [Regulation 216/2008, last amended by Regulation 2016/4] and from subsonic civil jet aircraft [Directive 89/629], while they provide for the phasing out of the noisiest of these aeroplanes [Directive 2006/93]. Since 2002, the EU applies the "balanced approach" to noise management, recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), concerning the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at European airports [Regulation 598/2014, see section 20.3.5].
Another major source of noise pollution is that of the various equipment for use outdoors, such as compressors, tower cranes, welding and power generators, concrete-breakers and lawnmowers. To protect the health and well-being of citizens, permissible noise levels for such equipment had to be reduced; but their noise emission had to be harmonised in order to prevent obstacles to the free movement of such equipment [Directive 2000/14]. Thus, Member States should not prohibit, restrict or impede the placing on the market or putting into service in their territory of equipment which complies with European requirements, bears the CE marking and the indication of the guaranteed sound power level and is accompanied by an EC/EU declaration of conformity.
Α directive relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise defines a common approach intended to avoid, prevent or reduce on a prioritised basis the harmful effects, including annoyance, due to exposure to environmental noise [Directive 2002/49, last amended by Directive 2015/996]. It also aims at providing a framework for developing European measures to reduce noise emitted by the major sources, in particular road and rail vehicles and infrastructure, aircraft, outdoor and industrial equipment and mobile machinery.