European Court tackles unacceptable traffic noise pollution

This post has been written by Laurens Lavrysen, one of our colleagues at the Human Rights Centre.

 

Traffic noise pollution – especially at night – is one of the biggest health risks of contemporary Europe. This kind of pollution causes inter alia sleep disturbance, cardiovascular diseases, aberrant social behavior and stress. Guidelines from the World Health Organization recommend an average of less than 40 dB(A) outside of bedrooms to prevent negative health effects from night noise.  Nonetheless, figures of the European Union show that about 30 % of the population in EU countries is exposed to road traffic noise at night at levels exceeding 55 dB(A) (see: http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-do/health-topics/environmental-health/noise/). It seems surprising that it was only in the very recent case of Deés v. Hungary that the European Court of Human Rights had to rule on this severe environmental problem. Continue reading

Forced exposure to passive smoking violates human rights

Does exposure to smoking by other people violate human rights? This is a question that merits serious consideration. One context in which it has been raised is smoking in the presence of children (see the campaign of the Flemish Anti-Cancer League on this subject, with a link to my presentation on the subject). This raises obvious issues with respect to children’s right to health. I have argued that we might even consider smoking in front of children as a ‘harmful cultural practice’ from the perspective of children’s health, obliging states to take steps (for example through awareness raising) towards its abolition.

The right to health of course does not figure in the European Convention on Human Rights. Yet health-related issues may be addressed in the context of other provisions, in particular articles 3 and 8. In the recent case of Florea v Romania the European Court suggests that forced exposure to passive smoking violates article 3.

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