Photo credits: https://scistarter.org/noisetube
Anna Berti Suman*
Tilburg Institute for Law Technology and Society, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands
*Telephone: +31134668403; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Postal address: Prof. Cobbenhagenlaan 221, 5037 DE Tilburg, The Netherlands.
Excessive noise levels represent a pressing issue seriously affecting people’s health and wellbeing in contemporary cities. High levels of noise can threaten both mental and physical health, causing persistent stress and impinging over environmental rights such as the right to a healthy environment. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has often reflected on the connection between environmental protection and human health. In a number of cases, some expressly dealing with noise-associated nuisances, the ECtHR has been lenient in identifying causal links between environmental harm and resulting health effects. In the Dubetska case, for example, the Court found a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) enshrining the respect for private and family life because of severe water pollution. The Court noted that it is “often impossible to quantify [pollution] effects in each individual case” (para 106) but it suffices that pollution is “in clear excess of applicable safety standards [creating an] elevated risk to health” (para 111) to determine a breach of Article 8 ECHR. Specifically addressing noise-induced pollution, in the Deés case, the Court again affirmed that the mere fact that the noise exceeded substantially statutory norms was sufficient to constitute a violation of Article 8 ECHR. This open interpretation may allow citizens monitoring their environment to stand in court for violation of their right to health or to a healthy environment whenever they can demonstrate a substantial exceeding of (national or international) environmental standards.