noise in the built environment; noise in the community; and hazardous noise. Some areas, such as aircraft noise reduction, have received a great deal of global attention, but other important sources of noise have received less attention, even though they affect many more people.


Cost-benefit analysis for different noise mitigation options is another area considered by the committee, both broadly and in the context of reducing noise generated by interactions between vehicle tires and road surfaces. At highway speeds this tire/road interaction noise dominates noise emissions from vehicles, and efforts are being made to design road surfaces that minimize this noise. The committee recommends that a formal analysis be performed to compare the costs and benefits of using pavement technology for noise reduction with the costs and benefits of installing noise barriers. This cost-benefit analysis would probably be a cooperative effort of the Federal Highway Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and several states. The efforts of the Federal Aviation Administration to develop a cost-benefit approach to analyze noise around airports could help in the development of a similar project to analyze options for reducing highway noise. European cost-benefit analyses, clearly much more extensive than similar American analyses, are also reviewed.


The European Union (EU) has been a leader in the development of noise regulations based on standards promulgated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). These regulations are more extensive than regulations in the United States, and consequently European manufacturers have gained an advantage over their U.S. counterparts in meeting demands for low-noise machinery and other products worldwide.

Regulatory and standards-setting activities regarding noise, especially in the EU, are examined, and their impact on the ability of U.S. manufacturers to compete in world markets is assessed. EU member states have placed significant emphasis on the need for noise emission standards and have exercised waxing influence within the ISO, and to some extent the IEC, on the development of international noise emission standards. Meanwhile, U.S. influence within ISO and IEC on noise-related issues has waned. Building on voluntary standards, noise emissions from consumer products are much more highly regulated in Europe than in the United States, and European requirements on noise levels in the workplace also are more stringent than in the United States. The role of the U.S. Department of Commerce, especially its National Institute of Standards and Technology, is reviewed, and several recommendations are made for strengthening U.S. manufacturers’ participation in international standards-setting bodies related to noise control and for improving dissemination of information on noise emission requirements outside the United States.

Although noise requirements can sometimes be a burden, they can also encourage innovation. A manufacturer’s desire for the design of a low-noise machine for sale in world markets is a positive force that could lead to the introduction of quiet products into American markets and be an incentive for manufacturers and purchasers to cooperate in “buy-quiet” programs. Indeed, at the time of purchase, consumers rank noise as one of the top five characteristics when comparing product performance. Yet noise levels for U.S. products are often buried in product literature and reported in different noise metrics, making it difficult for consumers to compare noise levels at the time of purchase. Thus, consumers are unable to make informed decisions about the noise emission of a product. This problem could be corrected if product noise levels were prominently displayed and manufacturers adopted a system of self-enforcement.

American manufacturers have the ingenuity to design quiet products. However, manufacturers and trade associations, as well as the voluntary-standards community, have been unable to agree on a uniform standard for measuring and labeling product noise.


In some areas—notably aircraft noise, occupational noise, and highway noise that can be reduced by barriers—government regulation has played a major role. But this report shows that improvements can be made in other ways as well. For example, authority for cost-benefit analysis, interagency projects, and dissemination of public information was granted to the EPA by Congress. Because of a lack of funding, however, EPA has been unable to carry out these activities. The study committee recommends changes that will make it easier for the federal government to improve the lives of Americans.


This report also examines the state of noise control engineering education and concludes that the nation needs to educate specialists in the field and provide basic knowledge of the principles of noise control engineering to individuals trained as specialists in other engineering disciplines.


An informed public is an important element in efforts to create a quieter America, and the Internet is a low-cost avenue for dissemination of authoritative information on noise, noise control, and the effects of noise on people. The public would

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