Executive Summary

Exposure to noise (i.e., unwanted or potentially hazardous sound) at home, at work, while traveling, and during leisure activities is a fact of life for all Americans. At times noise can be loud enough to damage hearing, and at lower levels it can disrupt normal living, affect sleep patterns, affect our ability to concentrate at work, interfere with outdoor recreational activities, and, in some cases, interfere with communications and even cause accidents. Clearly, exposure to excessive noise can affect our quality of life.

As the population of the United States and, indeed, the world increases and developing countries become more industrialized, problems of noise are likely to become more pervasive and lower the quality of life for everyone. Efforts to manage noise exposures, to design quieter buildings, products, equipment, and transportation vehicles, and to provide a regulatory environment that facilitates adequate, cost-effective, sustainable noise controls require our immediate attention. Specific recommendations that address these issues are included in this report.

This report looks at the most commonly identified sources of noise, how they are characterized, efforts that have been made to reduce noise emissions, and efforts to reduce the noise experienced by people in workplaces, schools, recreational environments, and residences. The report also reviews the standards and regulations that govern noise levels and the federal, state, and local agencies that regulate or should regulate noise for the benefit, safety, and wellness of society at large. This report also presents information on the cost-benefit trade-offs between efforts to mitigate noise and the improvements they achieve, information sources available to the public on the dimensions of noise problems and their mitigation, and the need to educate professionals who can deal with these issues.

Ubiquitous sources of noise include all modes of transportation—airplanes, trains, trucks, and automobiles; consumer products, such as lawnmowers, snow blowers, and leaf blowers; and manufacturing machinery in the workplace. Noise levels usually decrease as one moves away from a source, but people living close to the end of a runway or near a high-speed interstate highway cannot escape from highly annoying noise; lawn care equipment can annoy neighbors and at times can be hazardous to the user; and the requirements of operating noisy machinery can make it practically impossible for workers to retreat far enough to escape hazardous noise. Below are specific subjects addressed in this report.

IMPROVEMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL NOISE METRICS

The committee looked in detail at the state of the technology with regard to noise metrics and concluded that modern advances in our ability to collect, store, and analyze noise data challenge us to reexamine current metrics that were developed in the 1970s or earlier with the objective of developing metrics better related to human response to noise.

HAZARDOUS NOISE AT WORK AND AT HOME

This report also provides information on noise, both occupational and nonoccupational, that can damage hearing. The committee recommends that current U.S. Department of Labor limits on occupational noise exposure be reviewed and changed. Engineering controls should be the primary means of controlling noise, and “buy quiet” programs will assist in the procurement of low-noise machinery and equipment.

TECHNOLOGIES FOR NOISE CONTROL

Technology alone will not solve all noise problems, but problems that are amenable to technical solutions can be solved by engineers with appropriate support from economists, psychologists, medical specialists, educators, and many departments in federal, state, and local governments. In this report the committee has made an assessment of transportation noise sources; noise from machinery, equipment, and consumer products that can affect U.S. competitiveness;



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Executive Summary Exposure to noise (i.e., unwanted or potentially hazardous but people living close to the end of a runway or near a high- sound) at home, at work, while traveling, and during leisure speed interstate highway cannot escape from highly annoy- activities is a fact of life for all Americans. At times noise ing noise; lawn care equipment can annoy neighbors and at can be loud enough to damage hearing, and at lower levels times can be hazardous to the user; and the requirements of it can disrupt normal living, affect sleep patterns, affect our operating noisy machinery can make it practically impossible ability to concentrate at work, interfere with outdoor recre- for workers to retreat far enough to escape hazardous noise. ational activities, and, in some cases, interfere with com- Below are specific subjects addressed in this report. munications and even cause accidents. Clearly, exposure to excessive noise can affect our quality of life. IMPROVEMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL NOISE As the population of the United States and, indeed, the METRICS world increases and developing countries become more industrialized, problems of noise are likely to become The committee looked in detail at the state of the technol- more pervasive and lower the quality of life for everyone. ogy with regard to noise metrics and concluded that modern Efforts to manage noise exposures, to design quieter build- advances in our ability to collect, store, and analyze noise ings, products, equipment, and transportation vehicles, and data challenge us to reexamine current metrics that were to provide a regulatory environment that facilitates adequate, developed in the 1970s or earlier with the objective of devel- cost-effective, sustainable noise controls require our immedi- oping metrics better related to human response to noise. ate attention. Specific recommendations that address these issues are included in this report. HAZARDOuS NOISE AT WORK AND AT HOME This report looks at the most commonly identified sources of noise, how they are characterized, efforts that have been This report also provides information on noise, both oc- made to reduce noise emissions, and efforts to reduce the cupational and nonoccupational, that can damage hearing. noise experienced by people in workplaces, schools, rec- The committee recommends that current U.S. Department of reational environments, and residences. The report also Labor limits on occupational noise exposure be reviewed and reviews the standards and regulations that govern noise changed. Engineering controls should be the primary means levels and the federal, state, and local agencies that regulate of controlling noise, and “buy quiet” programs will assist in or should regulate noise for the benefit, safety, and wellness the procurement of low-noise machinery and equipment. of society at large. This report also presents information on the cost-benefit trade-offs between efforts to mitigate noise TECHNOLOgIES FOR NOISE CONTROL and the improvements they achieve, information sources available to the public on the dimensions of noise problems Technology alone will not solve all noise problems, but and their mitigation, and the need to educate professionals problems that are amenable to technical solutions can be who can deal with these issues. solved by engineers with appropriate support from econo- Ubiquitous sources of noise include all modes of transpor- mists, psychologists, medical specialists, educators, and tation—airplanes, trains, trucks, and automobiles; consumer many departments in federal, state, and local governments. products, such as lawnmowers, snow blowers, and leaf blow- In this report the committee has made an assessment of trans- ers; and manufacturing machinery in the workplace. Noise portation noise sources; noise from machinery, equipment, levels usually decrease as one moves away from a source, and consumer products that can affect U.S. competitiveness; 

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 TECHNOLOGY FOR A QUIETER AMERICA noise in the built environment; noise in the community; and and several recommendations are made for strengthening hazardous noise. Some areas, such as aircraft noise reduc- U.S. manufacturers’ participation in international standards- tion, have received a great deal of global attention, but other setting bodies related to noise control and for improving important sources of noise have received less attention, even dissemination of information on noise emission requirements though they affect many more people. outside the United States. Although noise requirements can sometimes be a burden, they can also encourage innovation. A manufacturer’s desire COST-BENEFIT ANALySIS FOR NOISE MITIgATION for the design of a low-noise machine for sale in world mar- Cost-benefit analysis for different noise mitigation op- kets is a positive force that could lead to the introduction of tions is another area considered by the committee, both quiet products into American markets and be an incentive for broadly and in the context of reducing noise generated by manufacturers and purchasers to cooperate in “buy-quiet” interactions between vehicle tires and road surfaces. At programs. Indeed, at the time of purchase, consumers rank highway speeds this tire/road interaction noise dominates noise as one of the top five characteristics when comparing noise emissions from vehicles, and efforts are being made product performance. Yet noise levels for U.S. products are to design road surfaces that minimize this noise. The com- often buried in product literature and reported in different mittee recommends that a formal analysis be performed to noise metrics, making it difficult for consumers to compare compare the costs and benefits of using pavement technology noise levels at the time of purchase. Thus, consumers are for noise reduction with the costs and benefits of installing unable to make informed decisions about the noise emission noise barriers. This cost-benefit analysis would probably be of a product. This problem could be corrected if product a cooperative effort of the Federal Highway Administration, noise levels were prominently displayed and manufacturers the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and several adopted a system of self-enforcement. states. The efforts of the Federal Aviation Administration American manufacturers have the ingenuity to design to develop a cost-benefit approach to analyze noise around quiet products. However, manufacturers and trade associa- airports could help in the development of a similar project to tions, as well as the voluntary-standards community, have analyze options for reducing highway noise. European cost- been unable to agree on a uniform standard for measuring benefit analyses, clearly much more extensive than similar and labeling product noise. American analyses, are also reviewed. THE ROLE OF gOVERNMENT STANDARDS AND REguLATIONS FOR PRODuCT In some areas—notably aircraft noise, occupational NOISE EMISSIONS noise, and highway noise that can be reduced by barriers— The European Union (EU) has been a leader in the devel- government regulation has played a major role. But this opment of noise regulations based on standards promulgated report shows that improvements can be made in other ways by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as well. For example, authority for cost-benefit analysis, and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). interagency projects, and dissemination of public informa- These regulations are more extensive than regulations in the tion was granted to the EPA by Congress. Because of a lack United States, and consequently European manufacturers of funding, however, EPA has been unable to carry out these have gained an advantage over their U.S. counterparts in activities. The study committee recommends changes that meeting demands for low-noise machinery and other prod- will make it easier for the federal government to improve ucts worldwide. the lives of Americans. Regulatory and standards-setting activities regarding noise, especially in the EU, are examined, and their impact EDuCATION OF NOISE CONTROL ENgINEERS on the ability of U.S. manufacturers to compete in world markets is assessed. EU member states have placed signifi- This report also examines the state of noise control en- cant emphasis on the need for noise emission standards and gineering education and concludes that the nation needs to have exercised waxing influence within the ISO, and to some educate specialists in the field and provide basic knowledge extent the IEC, on the development of international noise of the principles of noise control engineering to individuals emission standards. Meanwhile, U.S. influence within ISO trained as specialists in other engineering disciplines. and IEC on noise-related issues has waned. Building on vol- untary standards, noise emissions from consumer products PuBLIC INFORMATION are much more highly regulated in Europe than in the United States, and European requirements on noise levels in the An informed public is an important element in efforts to workplace also are more stringent than in the United States. create a quieter America, and the Internet is a low-cost avenue The role of the U.S. Department of Commerce, especially its for dissemination of authoritative information on noise, noise National Institute of Standards and Technology, is reviewed, control, and the effects of noise on people. The public would

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 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY CONCLuSION benefit from knowing that there are engineering solutions to many noise problems, and a uniform system of labeling the Reducing the noise levels to which Americans are ex- noise emissions of products would enable the public to make posed will require cooperation among engineers, industrial informed purchase decisions. EPA has the authority to do management, and government in many disciplines, and it more than it is currently doing to create and disseminate will not be accomplished in a short time. Nevertheless, public information, and engineering societies can contribute reduced noise levels will contribute to improved quality of information on noise reduction that is accessible to the pub- life for many Americans, and the committee believes that lic. Citizens groups can also be a source of public informa- the recommendations in this report, if implemented, will tion on noise. Specific recommendations to enhance public improve the current noise climate. information efforts are given in this report. REFERENCES NOISE AND HEALTH Babisch, W. 2008. Road traffic noise and cardiovascular risk. Noise and The general relationship between noise and health is not Health 10(38):27–33. Available online at http://www.noiseandhealth. covered in this report, although new information is becom- org/article.asp?issn=46-74;year=008;olume=0;issue=8; ing available (Babisch, 2008; DEFRA, 2009). However, it spage=7;epage=;aulast=Babisch;type=0. DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs). 2009. Esti- will take a multidisciplinary study committee to evaluate mating Dose-Response Relationships between Noise Exposure and Hu - these results and determine their relevance to the health of man Health in the UK. BEL Technical Report 2009-02. Available online the American people. at http://www.defra.go.uk/enironment/noise/igcb/healthreport.htm.

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