Study claims Dublin port noise above WHO guidelines

Results reveal ‘significant’ public health concern for residents at Dublin port

An independent study has found that residents of Pigeon House Road in Dublin port are exposed to noise from the port's biggest container terminal above night-time guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The study by two researchers at UCD's school of geography, planning and environmental policy – published in the latest issue of the journal Environment International – also found that noise was "above Irish levels for the assessment of noise mitigation".

The two researchers, Enda Murphy and Eoin King, note that the WHO recently acknowledged that noise exposure was a significant and growing "environmental stressor" responsible for sleep disturbance, tinnitus, annoyance and even heart disease.

They also investigated the extent of low-frequency noise from night port-handling activity and found a “significant low-frequency component indicating the negative health issues that might arise from port noise exposure more generally”.


According to the authors, "the results reveal a significant environmental and public health concern for residents in the immediate vicinity of the port" from night-handling activity at the terminal on Pigeon House Road operated by Marine Terminals Ltd (MTL).

They say the WHO guideline night-noise limit of 40 decibels is “consistently exceeded in the area, with the noise being intermittent in nature and thus providing for potentially greater shocks to residents’ sleep patterns” in 11 houses at the Coastguard Station.

“This demonstrates convincingly that night-time handling activity at the port has a detrimental and significant impact on the local sound environment,” they say. “Moreover, the night-time activity appears to be characterised by little or no attempt to mitigate the noise.

“Restriction/cessation of operational activity during night-time hours or some other measure(s) should be instituted as a priority not only in this area but more generally wherever port-handling activity is operating adjacent to residential neighbourhoods.”

Dr King said the study, for which local residents were also interviewed, “outlines the failure of planning authorities [in this case Dublin City Council] to implement their duty of care to citizens, and highlights the very real issue of noise pollution in this area in particular”.

One unnamed local resident complained of “constant tiredness that I didn’t have before; an underlying tiredness. It takes me longer [in the morning] to kind of kick into action . . . It affects how you behave; it affects your mood very definitely . . . I’m more irritable.”

The study notes that three gantries were erected by Liverpool-based MTL without planning permission in 2002, but no enforcement proceedings were brought against the company prior to the seven-year period for enforcement under planning law expiring.

A spokesman for Dublin City Council said its own "noise mapping" study showed that WHO guidelines were "exceeded at many locations throughout the city" and the High Court had found that it was "not reasonable to expect adherence to these guideline limits . . ."

This applied to a specific noise source, such as MTL’s cargo-handling operations. “Dublin City Council therefore uses other methodologies for assessing noise nuisance. Our findings, based on these methodologies, did not indicate that legal proceedings were merited.”

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former environment editor