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  Table of Contents    
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 62  |  Page : 12-21
Community response to noise: Research in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and Newly Independent States

1 National Institute of Public Health, Communicable Diseases and Environmental Health Center, Ljubljana, Slovakia
2 European Commission Joint Research Centre, Institute for Health and Consumer Protection, Chemical Assessment and Testing Unit, Ispra (VA), Italy
3 Department of Environmental Management, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia
4 Institute of Hygiene, Faculty of Medicine, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia
5 Department for Environmental Health, Institute of Public Health, Skopje, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
6 Institute of Hygiene and Medical Ecology, School of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia
7 Department of Physical Hazards, Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Lodz, Poland

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Date of Web Publication14-Feb-2013

The systems of public complaints on environmental noise were reviewed in seven countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), South-East Europe (SEE), and Newly Independent States (NIS). Public complaints remain an important issue due to differences in public sensitivity to noise and due to several cases where a measurement of noise intensity does not give a satisfying solution to the problem. The unresolved problem remaining in the residential neighborhoods is the noise from pubs and restaurants that are open until late in the night. In our review, we compiled information on the institutions responsible for the implementation of environmental noise legislation and organizations that are responsible for dealing with public complaints. Information on activities for increasing public awareness on hazards rising from environmental noise and the role of civil initiative was explored. In seven countries, and among them, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Poland, the responsibilities and duties are shared among different institutions at national and regional levels, depending on the noise source. The problem of gathering information on complaints and using it for improving the wellbeing and health of citizens remains often difficult and unsolved.

Keywords: Complaints, environmental noise, municipalities, responsible authorities, wellbeing

How to cite this article:
Jeram S, Lekaviciute J, Krukle Z, Argalasova-Sobotova L, Ristovska G, Paunovic K, Pawlaczyk-Luszczynska M. Community response to noise: Research in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and Newly Independent States. Noise Health 2013;15:12-21

How to cite this URL:
Jeram S, Lekaviciute J, Krukle Z, Argalasova-Sobotova L, Ristovska G, Paunovic K, Pawlaczyk-Luszczynska M. Community response to noise: Research in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and Newly Independent States. Noise Health [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Dec 3];15:12-21. Available from: https://www.noiseandhealth.org/text.asp?2013/15/62/12/107148

  Introduction Top

Noise is largely an issue of sensory perception and personal preference, particularly at levels where direct health hazards are not a major factor. Therefore, psychological, social factors, and sensitivity are very important in noise annoyance assessment. [1],[2],[3] Only about one-third of the variance of annoyance reactions can be explained by the variance of acoustic properties of noise. [4] Even when a large number of residents is annoyed by noise, not many of them complain, because they feel that nothing can be done about the noise. [5] People who are older, better-educated, have higher income and higher social status express their feelings by the means of complaints more often than other annoyed persons, probably because they are more likely to feel that their complaints will be listened due to their verbal and organizational skills to take action against noise. [2] Even if complaining cannot be accepted as an accurate measure of public annoyance, it is the most frequent form of opposition as it is an easy way to express someone's concern. [5] The importance of having the possibility to complain was highlighted in a study that showed a reduction in blood pressure after the usage of a noise-complaint line. [6] On the other hand, unsuccessful coping might even increase the annoyance. [7] It is important to know that people who complain very frequently probably belong to vulnerable groups demonstrating high noise sensitivity, poor sleep, chronic diseases, or neuroticism. [8] These analyses highlight the importance of precise and immediate responding to complainants. First-time complainants are generally courteous and reasonable, whereas complainants become unreasonable after having been ignored. Therefore, it is important to plan the complaint procedures very carefully so that residents and authorities gain from the procedure. [9] Previously, in 1979, Borsky defined complaining as a function of several factors such as belief that the complaint might be effective, knowing where to complain, confidence in one's ability to deal with authorities, and past complaint experience. [10] It is important when operating noise complaint lines to respond to complainants at once and to be precise at all times, especially the first time people complain. Complaints can be useful to identify important noise problems and to enable the residents to participate in the development of their environment. Apart from possibilities to reduce the level of noise, they have an important psychological benefit for individuals. [5] Authorities should address the issue of successfulness and efficiency of noise complaint lines by the means of transparency and an open information policy. [6],[11] Many major airports operate complaint services to gather information about disturbance caused by their activities to the neighboring communities. This information related to the noise-monitoring system can be applied to improve operations and to minimize the disturbance. Levels of complaints would be different from different premises because of diverse systems used to collect complaints, cultural and socioeconomic variability, different public awareness, and other factors. However, community complaint data should be better assessed as they can be valuable in supporting the decision of the planning authorities. [8]

The aim of this study was to gather information on the complaint system in force in Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Poland and to present needs for improvement identified in these countries.

  Methods Top

Due to the lack of publications debating the issue of environmental noise and the importance of complaining in the countries considered in this review, the information was mainly obtained by personal communication between authors and competent authorities at the national and regional level.

  Results Top

The compiled information accessible in seven countries is presented.


Three main institutions: Ministry of Agriculture and Environment, Ministry of the Interior and the Institute of Public Health are involved in addressing public complaints about environmental noise in Slovenia. As a division within the Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment, the National Inspectorate for the Agriculture and Environment is subdivided into seven Regional Inspectorates and the Chief Inspectorate. The Department for Protection of Environment and Nature of the Inspectorate is responsible for dealing with environmental noise problems. The main task of the Inspectorate is supervision over the implementation of or compliance with the environmental policy. Inspections are carried out by independent, authorized inspectors that work in the interest of the public. Complaints and suggestions set by citizens to the Inspectorate are considered; the applicant however, does not have a position in the inspection process. All important information for establishing contacts for regional units is available on the inspectorate website. The application should include all important informations like location, identification of facility or activities that are the matter in question, when available also the name of investor, or other relevant information. Inspectors under the provisions of the second paragraph in Article 16 of the Inspection act are required to protect the confidentiality of the source application and the source of other information. Inspection actions are part of the activities that are planned in advance and belong to the category of a routine operation. The platform and objectives for each action are defined, and guidelines for work in terms of the conduct of the procedures and for taking measures are prepared. Actions are carried out simultaneously over the entire territory of the state; they are time-limited and have a clearly defined subject matter. After the action is concluded, an analysis and report are produced. The advantages of such a mode of operation are the following: Systematic supervision of the area of work, feedback information received on the enforceability and level of compliance with regulations and integrated inspection. Non-routine inspections are carried out in response to complaints and initiatives received. Since the number of complaints and thus, the number of the related inspections cannot be planned in advance, the inspectorate assesses the time required for such activities on the basis of past experience. The number of received complaints, initiatives, and requests for various reports is increasing year by year, whereas their contents vary in subject matter and level of complexity. In view of the first paragraph of Article 24 of the Inspection Act, lying down that inspectors must deal with reports, complaints, messages, and other information falling within their competence, the inspectorate has developed criteria for dealing with received cases within a reasonable time. Non-routine inspections are generally carried out at the site without prior notice, and are limited to the contents of complaints. Numbers of annual surveillances, measures, and offences for the period of last seven years are presented in [Table 1]. With time, the number of surveillance and measures is decreasing, however, the number of offences is not showing any trend in changes. In 2011, there were 493 surveillances, 68 measures, and 13 offences reported. The inspectorate also received 69 public complaints. Most of them were related to noise from the industry and facilities (30), followed by complaints about noise from pubs (7), and public events (7). Other complaints related to noise from ventilation (6), road traffic (4), neighbours (4), constructions (3), bell ringing (2), and other sources (6). [12]
Table 1: Number of annual surveillance, measures and offences of environmental noise realized by inspectorate in Slovenia

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The State Police which is affiliated to the Ministry of the Interior is dealing with complains and offences involving excessive noise coming from music concerts and other outdoor public events, facilities like bar and shop premises, restaurants or nightclubs open until late hours at night, and loudspeakers of cars in parking places. The Police report such offences to the authorities responsible for issuing relevant permits, and to relevant inspectorates. Illegal disturbance of peace or rest of citizens, when noise is not caused by emergency intervention-maintenance interventions, between 22:00 and 6:00 and in case of use of television, radio, or other acoustical device or instrument that is not the permitted activity, shall be punished according to the protection of Public order act (OJ RS, n. 70/06). The statistics of complaints against public order is summarized in the Annual reports on the work of State Police and was provided from State Police for the purpose of our review (Personal communication: State Police). The numbers of annual interventions of Police in response to complaints about excessive noise are presented in [Table 2].
Table 2: Number of violations of the Decree on noise in the natural and living environment and of the Public order act from 2001 until 2011 in Slovenia

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Following the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the sixth environmental action programme, the European Environment and Health Strategy, the Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010, Children's Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe and Parma declaration, the Slovenian government adopted the Strategy of the Republic of Slovenia for environmental health of children and adolescents for the period of 2012-2020. [13],[14],[15],[16],[17],[18],[19],[20] Based on this strategy, the ministries prepared an action plan within one year of adoption of this resolution. From all the recommendations listed in above-mentioned documents, it is evident that understanding and tackling the environment-related health problems requires sustained cooperation between national, regional and local authorities, environmental, health and research communities, industry, agriculture, and stakeholders. Responsibility for making progress in this complex area should also include the civil society which plays a key role in translating local information about identified threats into preventive action and innovative responses. [16],[17] It is important to address these challenges by strengthening the existing mechanisms and structures that can improve effective implementation, promote local actions, and ensure active participation. [19] Therefore, the importance of establishing good contacts with citizens was one of the priorities at the National Institute of Public Health in Slovenia. Its main role is advising and raising awareness about possible hazards from noise on public wellbeing and health. To fulfill this role, the institute has established the website with basic information on noise and health and a contact electronic address for citizens who need further advice. The institute systematically collects information on the type of complaints and possible solutions to prepare the "Frequently asked question" list for general advice to public. In the last 2 years, the institute received 30 requests for advice regarding noise from traffic, industry, construction works, public events, and from the neighborhoods. The noise sources that people mostly complained about are given in [Table 3].
Table 3: List of requests for advice related to environmental noise disturbance in 2010 and 2011

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Several societies were established in Slovenia at regional levels to join efforts in solving local noise problems. One of the most active societies is the Society against enlargement of sport airport and against noise at the airport of Lesce. The Slovenian Acoustic Society is a non-profit scientific organization whose primary purpose is to help the Slovenian engineers to compete successfully in the demanding foreign markets in ever stricter requirements to reduce noise and maximize quieter products.


In Lithuania, the Ministry of Health is the lead entity on the issue of noise, but responsibilities are shared with the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Municipalities. Researchers are also involved through the work of the Noise Prevention Council. [21] The Noise Prevention Council with the Vice Minister of Health as its chairperson acts as an advisory body to the government. The members of the Noise Prevention Council are undersecretaries of the noise management in responsible ministries, representatives from government and municipalities, and representatives of research and public institutions that work toward noise prevention. [21] The annual reports of the Noise Prevention Council on the state of noise prevention are presented to the government, published and available to the public, together with a set of conclusions and recommendations to be implemented. Although the Ministry of Transport and Communications is responsible for transport infrastructures noise management, primarily, the Regional Public Health Centers are dealing with public complaints due to road, railway, or air traffic noise. It also takes into account the complaints due to noise from the roads and streets, which are under the responsibility of Municipalities (Personal communication: Ministry of Health). The Municipalities are responsible for the control of construction or renovation work noise in residential buildings or districts, as also to perform a control of noise prevention in public places rules' implementation. [22] Regional Public Health Centers under the Ministry of Health are dealing with complaints related to noise from industrial activity, economical, commercial activity, and complaints related to noise assessment while performing environmental impact assessment for future economic activity. The available statistical data for Lithuania show that there were 169 complaints in 2008 due to noise, 138 of them were further investigated and 37 were confirmed to be justified [Table 4]. [23] The situation of years 2010 and 2011 is also presented in the same [Table 4]. [24] All complaints were related to stationary noise sources of economic commercial activity.
Table 4: Complaints to the regional public health centers due to noise in Lithuania in years 2008, 2010, and 2011

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Table 5: Number of administrative protocols given because of violation of two articles from code of administrative violations of Republic of Lithuania in 2007-2009

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In 2008, complaints due to noise were related to noise sources such as: Railway noise and vibration, construction work, shop activity, neighborhood noise, low-frequency noise from grain-processing industry company (several complaints), night-noise from agricultural machines (spreading fertilizers on the trees), detailed plan of street reconstruction (widening: Residents were afraid that future widened street will be a cause of very high noise levels 50 meters from residential buildings), waste water-treatment plant under construction, reconstruction of the house, and consequential reduced acoustical isolation of apartment because of damages done during the reconstruction work. [23] According to data from the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions, for the year 2005, 19.8% of Lithuanians declared they were affected by noise from neighbors or from the street. [25] Neighborhood noise is considered to be a serious problem in Lithuania. The Ministry of the Interior - Police Department is dealing with the complaints related to neighborhood noise mainly according to the Public order disturbance act and Violation of Lithuanian Republic Noise Management Law including the control of noise from reconstruction works in the apartments, under the responsibility of Municipalities. [23] The Ministry of Interior authorizes subordinate institutions like Territorial police institutions to perform noise control for 24 h in residential buildings, private estates, and public places. In 2007, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Interior signed a common decree, which practically allows the common work of police officers together with public health specialists for measuring night noise-levels, as needed for evaluation of complaints from residents. It is expected that this agreement will make work easier when solving the conflicts because of noise or while investigating the complaints due to public order disturbance. The noise limits for the residential and public buildings are set in the Lithuanian Hygiene Regulation HN 33:2011: Noise limit values in residential and public buildings and in their environment (Official Gazette, 2011, No. 75-3638). According to the information provided by the Ministry of Interior, the numbers of annual interventions of Police in Lithuania in 2007-2009, for which administrative violation protocols with penalty were necessary, are presented in [Table 5]. More than 8000 citations per year were recorded in this period of time for infringing on and disturbing public quiet.

According to these data, it can be concluded that there is a limited control by police officers, related to the article 42 (4) Violation of Lithuanian Republic noise management law, and other noise management-related legislation. Only a few cases were identified and the penalties were given. [23],[26]

There are some community initiatives in the biggest Lithuanian cities against noise disturbance. Some of them are expressed in the form of an Internet blog, trying to inform others. For example, some individuals created a blog, where they explain where and how people can complain about noise and public disturbance related to noise, which procedure to follow, and what results to expect. Other type of initiative is to gather a group of interested persons and try to solve disturbing noise problems together with Municipality and other concerned institutions. There is also a significant civil initiative related to renovation noise, which is very often experienced by the residents of multi-storey buildings. This action is led by one Lithuanian parliament member, who proposed the changes in the Noise Management Law (No. IX-2499, Official Gazette, 2004, No. 164-5971) as also in the two already mentioned articles (Article 42 (4) and Article 183) of the Code of Administrative Violations of Republic of Lithuania.


The main institutions that are responsible for dealing with environmental complaints and noise control in Latvia are the Ministry of Environment and Regional development, the State Health Inspectorate, as well as Municipalities. The institution responsible for legislation concerning environmental noise issues in Latvia is the Ministry of the Environmental and Regional development. Noise-levels monitoring in response to complaints is undertaken by the State Health Inspectorate, Municipalities, and their assigned institutions. The State Health Inspectorate, which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Health, is responsible for dealing with environmental noise complaints arising from transportation and industrial activities, such as the operation of ventilation and air-conditioning systems and compressors, as well as from industrial plants in general.

The State Health Inspectorate has provided data on received environmental noise complaints and inspected 46 complaints during 2010, 65 cases during 2011, and 28 claims in the 1 st 5 months of 2012 for the purpose of our review. [27],[28] When the State Health Inspectorate receives complaints, the initial identification of the noise source, noise-level assessment calculations, and site inspections are undertaken. In cases where the noise-level calculations indicate that the maximum permitted noise levels will be exceeded, the noise measurements are carried out by a certified laboratory. If the maximum permitted noise levels are exceeded, a notification is sent to the relevant party, requiring noise-level reduction. To prove that the noise levels are reduced to acceptable ones, the developer must submit a report detailing further noise measurements. The health inspector must then evaluate the report, but it is not necessary to recheck the data on the site. [29] The State Health Inspectorate should also work in close collaboration with Municipalities, because the State Health Inspectorate lacks the legal right to apply penalties. This means that in cases where the entrepreneur fails to abate the exceeded noise levels, the State Health Inspectorate requires the administrative commission of the Municipality to consider the case and decide on the penalty. The responsible institutions for dealing with complaints on neighborhood noise from pubs, concerts, or other sources are the Municipalities and their assigned institution, the Municipal Police. When noise complaints are received, a similar scheme of noise complaint investigations as described above is applied. However, unlike the State Health Inspectorate, the Municipal Police have the right to issue administrative acts and apply penalties for the offense of the local public order regulation even in cases when the maximum allowed noise levels are not exceeded. In the first half of 2012, the Municipal Police of the capital city Riga received more than 3200 complaints regarding community noise issues including noise from neighbors, and issued more than 300 notices of administrative violations. [30]

There is no clear regulation on the institution that deals with raising awareness of environmental noise and complaints about it. In general, the institution responsible for the environmental issues, including the raising of awareness, is the Ministry of Environment and Regional Development. It is also responsible for the environmental noise legislation. In general, there is a lack of understanding and community initiatives relating to noise issues. However, in cases when new noise sources are planned or are already under construction, local communities develop an interest in these issues. One example is the local residents' petitions against the construction of wind farms, addressed to the Municipalities. These with the support of non-governmental organizations have been brought to the Constitutional Court. Another example is the construction of a span of the road "VIA Baltica," which is a part of one of the nine important European multimodal transport corridors. More than 700 inhabitants living in close proximity to the pre-planned road expressed their views about the project and the associated noise issues.


In Slovakia, the Ministry of Health together with the Public Health Authority including 36 regional public health units play the crucial role in dealing with problems of noise pollution. Other ministries, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Regional Development, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Transport, Posts and Telecommunications, are partly involved in environmental noise measurements and management. The National Reference Centre for Noise and Vibration has been set up by the Ministry of Health. The role of the Centre is to keep professional contact with the Ministry of Health, the Public Health Authority, and the regional public health authorities on the problems of environmental noise. The National Reference Centre for Noise and Vibration is also involved in the provision of technical and methodological guidance to the regional public health authorities, which are responsible for the assessment of noise in the environment and preparation of proposals for measures to protect public health from noise and performance of the tasks associated with the harmonization of existing European legislation. The National Reference Centre for Noise and Vibration also assists in resolving complaints about noise. The regional public health authorities are generally responsible for objectively evaluating complaints from the public. They can professionally and responsibly identify and evaluate noise sources, take actions, and enforce sanctions when noise exceeds the acceptable levels laid down in Decree No. 549/2007 setting allowable values and requirements for the objective assessment of noise, infrasound, and vibration. [31],[32] Individuals, entrepreneurs or legal persons using or operating equipment giving rise to noise are required to ensure that the exposure of inhabitants and their environment to the noise is as low as possible and does not exceed permissible values according to Act No. 355/2007 on the protection, promotion, and development of public health. The evaluation of noise, infrasound, and vibration should be carried out every year. In the design, construction or substantial reconstruction of the transport infrastructure, the associated noise in the external or internal environments should not exceed the value of the anticipated traffic load. In the design, construction or substantial renovation of buildings, protection of their indoor environment must be ensured against noise from outside without their other necessary properties being jeopardized. [31],[33] Municipalities are entitled to assess exposure to environmental noise and vibration, although such evaluations can only be carried out by persons professionally authorized by the Ministry of Health. In case of complaints regarding noise generated by individuals or at public events during the night, the regional public health authorities cooperate with the local police to solve the problems. [32]

The National Reference Centre for Noise and Vibration also has a role to prepare training materials for the Chief Hygienist, performing training for workers in the field of assessment of noise and vibration, and providing consultation for professionals, individuals, and entities on noise and vibration. Non-governmental organizations such as the Slovak Acoustical Society, the Slovak National Accreditation Service, the Technical Testing Institute in Piestany, and the Slovak Metrological Institute play their role in noise reduction and preventions. The Slovak Acoustical Society is a voluntary non-profit-making association of institutions, scientists, and technical acousticians working within the framework of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. The Society encourages acoustic research and technical practice and organizes the international acoustic conferences that are well-known in the European acoustic community. [34]

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the responsible authority for managing the environmental noise is the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning. Ministry of Health through the State Sanitary and Health Inspection and Institute of Public Health has responsibility for risk assessment of noise-induced health effects. The management of environmental noise is regulated by the Law on Environmental Noise Protection, which is harmonized with the European directive 2002/49/EC on environmental noise. This law identifies noise exposure indicators, responsible authorities, strategic noise maps, and action plans. The Ministry of Economy has role in the control of noise emission through surveillance of import and trade of equipment and vehicles for outdoor and indoor use. [35] The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning is responsible for collecting data on monitoring of environmental noise for major roads, major railways, and major airports in collaboration with authorized and accredited laboratories for noise-exposure assessment and the State Environmental and Nature Inspection. [35] The responsibilities for dealing with noise complaints are divided between the local authorities and the State Environmental and Nature Inspection under the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning. It means that local problems with noise like the local traffic noise, neighborhood noise, noise from manufacturing activities, and construction activities are under the control and supervision of the Environmental Inspection at Municipalities. The National Institute of Public Health has performed several surveys for indicators for noise exposure and health effects in urban centers in order to raise question for noise pollution in urban areas. So far we have the available data on the level of annoyance and sleep disturbance in the capital of Skopje and we found that the most annoying noise sources were neighborhood noise and construction activities, followed by traffic noise. Railway and aircraft noise are not serious problems for causing annoyance and sleep disturbance in the exposed population. [36],[37],[38] These data were disseminated to all the relevant ministries in order to implement these findings in strategies for health, transport, development of urban areas, and urban plans.

The National Institute of Public Health conducted many educational activities for vulnerable groups, including school children, to protect their health from noise exposure. Suitable activities for raising awareness about noise exposure and negative health effects are performed each year by the Institute on behalf of the World Noise Awareness Day. Several Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with the main aim of protecting the human environment sometimes emphasize the question of high noise levels in urban settings, however, noise pollution is not the highest priority in their activities. Recently, the Macedonian Acoustical Association was founded as a Non-profit Scientific Organization that deals with exchange and upgrades the knowledge of experts in the field of acoustics and vibrations, with an aim to improve the quality of the living environment.


The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning which is being reorganized under the Ministry of Natural Resources, Mining and Spatial Planning performs noise assessment and oversees the noise-monitoring program. [39],[40] Noise assessment on the local level is performed by Institutes of Public Health at the level of Municipality, according to the programs adopted by the local government. A group for Protection from Noise and Vibrations has been established at the ministry to perform protection against noise and vibration. The intersectoral approaches are being developed such as the Children's Environment and Health Action Plan. The Environmental Inspectorate is directly answerable to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Mining and Spatial Planning, operates in all areas of environmental protection in Serbia, and performs both monitoring and enforcement. Inspections are performed as part of an annual plan or can be instigated through reports provided by the Institutes of Public Health. The Law on Environmental Protection and specific laws on environmental protection define the responsibilities and rights of the inspectors. The Environmental Inspectorate of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Mining and Spatial Planning is responsible for the surveillance and monitoring of industrial activities. The Law on Environmental Protection enables inspectors to react in most cases. Municipalities have important responsibilities for environmental protection and urban planning including the protection from environmental noise through collaboration of Secretariat of Environment, Secretariat of Health, and Network of Public Health Institutes. The Secretariat for the Environment at the Municipality performs assignments related to the protection and promotion of the environment including noise through the realization of action plans and programs. Under the Law on Health Care, the responsibilities of the Secretariats for Health at individual Municipalities are to provide social health at the municipality level and implementing programs for preserving and protecting people's health from the adverse effects of environmental pollution including noise. The Institute of Public Health at the level of each Municipality is a member of the Network of Public Health Institutes. In the Institute's Centre for Hygiene and Human Ecology, multidisciplinary teams work on programs for monitoring environmental media including the level of community noise. Monitoring noise levels is covered in major cities in Serbia. The role of Community Police includes the protection from excessive noise pollution and it also has an important role in directing maintenance of municipal and other important laws for maintenance of public order and prevention of public disturbance. The most frequent complaints about noise in Serbia are complaints about neighborhood noise, noise produced by individuals, animals, and home appliances, and noise from entertainment facilities like cafes and restaurants. Once the Community Police establish the problem, they contact the authorized and licensed public institution like the Institute of Public Health, who performs noise measurements and provide expertise on noise levels and their compliance with official limits.

Several non-governmental organizations are established in Serbia to be involved in protection of nature and environment and to prevent pollution, e.g., Pokret Gorana Novog Sada, Eco-GEA, Ecoist, Eko-sistem, and Izvor. However, no society was identified to deal primarily with problems concerning the environmental noise.


The main institutions involved in addressing public complaints about environmental noise in Poland are the Ministry of Environment, Inspection for Environmental Protection, the State Sanitary Inspection, and the Ministry of Health. The activities of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment in the field of noise protection are supported by scientific and research institutes, including the Institute of Environmental Protection-National Research Institute. The limits for noise emitted by industrial and transportation sources as well and reference methods for noise measurements were set by the Minister of Environment in three regulations concerning the environmental noise levels, measurements of emissions, and monitoring of noise. On the other hand, the Minister of Health indicated the Polish Standard PN-87/B-02151/02 as the standard which determines the permissible sound pressure levels for apartments in buildings. In general, the Inspection for Environmental Protection is responsible to deal with public complaints about noise perceived outdoors, whereas the indoor noise is the issue of State Sanitary Inspection. However, noise measurements are carried out not only by laboratories of the aforesaid inspections, but also by other accredited testing laboratories. The tasks of the Inspection for Environmental Protection are performed in collaboration between the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection and voivodes supported by 16 Voivodship Inspectors. The main tasks of the Inspection for Environmental Protection include controlling compliance with environmental protection regulations, examining the state of the environment, in particular the measurement and assessment of noise emitted by industrial sources and transportation sources under the programme of the National Environmental Monitoring. [41] The Inspection for Environmental Protection also deals with public complaints about noise from the industry, plant, road traffic, railway traffic, and air traffic. The Chief Inspector for Environment Protection submits the annual report on the activities of the Inspection for Environmental Protection to national authorities. The collected data on the acoustic state of environment are available on the website of the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection. [42] In addition, the status of the environment and its protection is presented on the Ekoportal website by the Environmental Information Centre. [43] The primary activity of this center is collection, development, and publication of information on the condition of environment, including the acoustic state of environment. Headed by the State Sanitary Inspector and reporting to the Minister of Health, the State Sanitary Inspection came into being to protect human health and life against adverse and annoying environmental factors. In general, it implements public health policy at the national level, through 16 Voivodship Sanitary-Epidemiological Stations and County Sanitary-Epidemiological Stations operating throughout Poland. The Department of Environmental Hygiene is an organizational unit of the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate which sets priorities and guidelines for State Sanitary Inspection. Among the main tasks, the Department of Environmental Hygiene also supervises protection against the noise. As far as noise protection is concerned, the local Sanitary-Epidemiological Stations are involved in monitoring noise exposure both in occupational and communal environment. Therefore, they are responsible for handling the complaints about indoor noise from sources in buildings like ventilation systems and lifts, reconstruction works in apartment buildings, noise from pubs, playgrounds, etc., Apart from both inspections, the complaints about the environmental noise are also reported through the local authorities, parliament deputies, as well as research institutes and some social organizations, e.g., those involved in the protection of environment or of consumer rights.

Several societies have been established in Poland to join efforts in solving local noise problems. The League of Noise awareness is one of the most active societies. Some advices concerning handling of complaints and interventions concerning environment, in particular about environmental noise are available on the website of the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection. [44]

  Discussion and Conclusions Top

This exercise showed that it was not trivial to find the information on complaint procedures and statistical data in the seven countries included in our review: Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Poland. Though the results are not giving a complete picture, they do show important differences among national approaches and the need for further improvement in information policy. Different factors are involved in the implementation of the regulations concerning environmental noise and even more diversity follows in registration of public complaints. Responsibilities are shared mainly among the ministries responsible for environment and/or health, State Police, and Municipalities. Several other institutions or departments may have important roles like inspectorates, which supervise over the implementation of, or compliance with the environmental policy. In general, the responsibilities and complaints are better managed in case of traffic and industrial noise. Nevertheless, there are very little guidelines for public to complain about the noise from the neighborhood. In Slovenia, for example, one can call the Police in case of annoyance due to environmental noise, but there is no obligation for the Police to provide feedback information to the complaining person or to make the results of complaints available for the public. The information on public complaints was gathered through close collaboration between National Institute of Public Health and State Police. The need to establish a stronger collaboration with Municipalities and to develop a unique system for complaints registration has been identified. It is well known that transparency and good information policy are very important in case of annoyance reduction. [45] To ensure improvements, Latvia suggests the adaptation of the best practice noise complaint management procedures from other countries as well as develop the guidelines for the reaction to complaints. [29] In Lithuania as well, there is no existing unique complaints management system with one institution governing it. It is therefore difficult to find information or even statistics, related to different type of complaints due to noise. The legislation should be more precise concerning the responsibilities of different institutions for dealing with complaints. In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the responsibilities for noise complaints are as well divided between different governmental bodies and institutions and data are collected from monitoring of environmental noise, but not for noise complaints from the citizens, delivered to Municipalities. At this moment, there is no available integrated database for noise complaints and it is a hard work to collect these data without introducing legal obligation for responsible bodies. The results from the surveys and media-delivered information show that citizens are most frequently complaining about the noise from pubs, restaurants, and construction activities, because many leisure activities are performed outdoors, especially during summer. The exact numbers of complaints and the information about solutions are still not available. The accurate and precise procedure for solving noise complaints, data delivery, and data collection is necessary for building the database for noise complaints. This database is also important for future urban planning, construction of residential areas, and development of noise mitigation measures. [46] Serbia had problems related to inadequate legislation and limit values for noise, inadequate monitoring of noise in urban areas, lack of spatial planning, including noise zoning, and improper location of industrial areas, lack of projects on protection against environmental noise, insufficient control of noise emitted by motor vehicles, and improper traffic management. In addition, the noise that arises from infrastructure development was not considered during planning. However, significant progress in this field was made by the adoption of the Law on Protection against Environmental Noise in May 2009.

It is worth noting a few facts that may cause a lack in willingness in informing the public about noise. First, noise is invisible, does not provoke strong images, and is perceived as less hazardous than air or water pollution. Second, noise is often labeled as subjective issue, and not fully accepted as an environmental problem. Third, people do not clearly understand and trust the scientific evidence for the link between noise and health. Finally, people sometimes believe that economic interests win over environmental issues and may lack confidence in authorities dealing with environmental or other public issues. [47]

The public in general is not sufficiently aware of the noise hazards to their health and wellbeing. However, the increasing role of public in consultancy on noise actions plans, on land-use planning and environmental health impact assessment represents in general, a step forward in improving public collaboration and awareness. In the conclusion, we would emphasize that there is a general need for better guidance for complaining options about environmental noise and for establishment of a better system for data collection and assessment. Improvement of information policy would reduce annoyance and also improve public wellbeing and health.

  Acknowledgment Top

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No 226442. We are grateful to all national and regional authorities that kindly provided information presented in this review.

  References Top

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Correspondence Address:
Sonja Jeram
National Institute of Public Health, Communicable Diseases and Environmental Health Center Trubarjeva 2, SI 1000, Ljubljana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1463-1741.107148

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]