Noise pollution near schools harms pupils’ concentration and memory – study

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Noise pollution near schools could be harmful to pupils’ concentration and working memory, according to new research.

In a study of 2,680 pupils aged seven to 10 in Barcelona between January 2012 and March 2013, children underwent cognitive tests of their working memory and concentration throughout the year, while road traffic noise was measured indoors and outdoors at the start of the year.

The study looked at average noise levels and noise fluctuation as well as outdoor average noise levels at the pupils’ homes, finding that high levels of noise pollution had an impact on pupils’ memory and attentiveness.

In tests every three months, the researchers concluded that exposure to road traffic noise at school – but not at home – was associated with slower development of working memory, complex working memory and attentiveness in the pupils.

The study found this could have an impact on children’s learning, and that environmental noise policies should be put in place to protect schools from the impact of noise pollution.

“Given the expected large number of children exposed to road traffic noise at schools, particularly in urban areas, the application of policies to reduce road traffic noise at schools (outside and inside classrooms) could substantially benefit cognitive development, at least working memory and attention, and future health,” the report says.

Professor Trevor Cox of the Science and Media Centre said: “Road traffic noise is a side effect of modern living.

“The fact it harms health and wellbeing is not talked about often enough. Arguably, the effect of noise on student learning in schools is the worst harm of environmental noise.

“This is because any lack of attainment is detrimental to health and wellbeing for the rest of the students’ lives. Addressing noise is particularly important for equality, because schools in disadvantaged areas are usually on noisier sites.”

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