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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Roar of the City

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If the hum of inner-city traffic tends to lull you to sleep, central Moscow is your dream location. But if it has the opposite effect, then batten down the hatches and prepare for some sleepless nights.

More than 6 million Moscow residents suffer from exposure to noise levels higher than standards set by authorities, said Valery Kucherov of independent environmental survey firm Ecostandard. The permitted noise "ceilings" in Moscow are 55 decibels by day and 45 by night -- 10 decibels higher than World Health Organization guidelines.

In Moscow, the ceiling levels are broken all day, every day in most parts of the city by construction work, overland trains and the millions of cars and trucks that congest the streets, Kucherov said.

One of the reasons why noise limits are so frequently broken -- and why authorities aren't prepared to do much about it -- is that the effect on a person's health is not as obvious as with other forms of pollution such as dirty air, Kucherov said.

Sleep deprivation and the resulting side effects are some of the relatively less serious health issues connected with noise pollution, studies in the West have shown: The sound levels Muscovites are exposed to are capable of causing permanent loss of hearing, tinnitus (permanent ringing in the ears), hypertension and cardiovascular problems with long-term exposure.

There are few quiet areas in the city, Kucherov said, but people looking for a little less noise in their lives should use common sense and avoid properties on or near the city's ring roads.

"We have had a lot of complaints from people living on the Garden Ring and the Moscow Ring Road," Kucherov said. "The noise there can exceed 100 decibels, especially on busy intersections," he said, naming the point where the Garden Ring intersects Tverskaya Ulitsa at Mayakovskaya as an example.

Serenity-lovers should also avoid living in one of the city's 400-or-so buildings equipped with noisy electricity generators on the ground floor, Kucherov said.

The city's Mosekomonitoring agency has no regular noise-monitoring timetable and only acts when it receives enough complaints from residents, agency spokesman Gennady Nikitich said.

In order to engage in nighttime construction, developers need permission from Mosekomonitoring, Nikitich said. Building during the day does not require permission from the agency, he added.

Unsurprisingly, those who live near airports are exposed to the highest noise levels in the city: Planes landing and taking off at Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo airports regularly expose nearby residents to more than 100 decibels of engine noise, or double the recommended maximum exposure.


Therefore peace-seekers should avoid moving to the Tyoply Stan, Yasenevo and Troparyovo districts of the city, which are subject to noise pollution from Vnukovo airport to the southwest. Areas exposed to Sheremetyevo noise are the northern districts of Molzhaninovo, Mitino and Zelenograd, Kucherov said.

In London, 35 decibels is considered the loudest noise level at which a resident in the city center can get a good night's sleep, said Steve Neville of Westminster City Council. Daytime noise levels should not exceed 45 decibels. Those are only guidelines, however, Neville said, and are impossible to enforce, though the amount of heavy traffic through the city center is limited. Should the council feel the urge to build a bypass next to a house, Neville said, residents can claim compensation for sound insulation under Britain's land compensation act.

In Moscow, authorities have taken action around so-called hotspots of noise pollution, Mosekomonitoring's Nikitich said. Next to busy sections of the Third Ring Road and the Moscow Ring Road or MKAD, the city has erected sound screens to reduce the amount of traffic noise reaching local residents.

But, at least for now, Moscow is going to stay loud and proud, Kucherov believes.

"The city and federal governments don't care about this problem, so we won't notice any positive changes in the situation," he said.

And those who complain about too much noise shouldn't get too excited about getting the problem solved.

Ecostandard recently received a complaint from a resident who said she could not get to sleep because of the noise produced by an air vent attached to the wall of a nearby restaurant.

"Officials concluded that there were no air vent systems and that the noise simply did not exist," Kucherov said. "What can you do?"

The one thing that the sound-sensitive can do is try to block out the noise with some good windows -- perhaps six-glazed PVC windows (as opposed to the standard double-glazed variety), which cost about 500 euros each including delivery and installation.