The current World Health Organisation (WHO) Guidelines For Community Noise were published in 1999. The guidelines deal with all aspects of environmental noise impact, and provide guideline values for community noise in specific environments. Most of the noise guidelines are given as period LAeq values, although LAmax values are given for some noise environments.
The WHO guidelines are based on analysis of research carried out around the world. The guidelines, whilst not having any legal force in the UK, have been used as the basis of UK guidelines such as BS8233.
Community noise (also called environmental noise, residential noise or domestic noise) is defined as noise emitted from all sources except noise at the industrial workplace. Main sources of community noise include road, rail and air traffic; industries; construction and public work; and the neighbourhood. The main indoor noise sources are ventilation systems, office machines, home appliances and neighbours.
WHO Community Noise states that "..more than half of all European Union citizens is estimated to live in zones that do not ensure acoustical comfort to residents", "In contrast to many other environmental problems, noise pollution continues to grow and it is accompanied by an increasing number of complaints from people exposed to the noise. The growth in noise pollution is unsustainable because it involves direct, as well as cumulative, adverse health effects. It also adversely affects future generations, and has socio-cultural, esthetic and economic effects."
In 2010, the WHO published Night Noise Guidelines for Europe. This document introduces a night noise target level, expressed as an annual average external noise level. An interim target is provided where it is not feasible to meet the target level.