The remainder of this chapter provides more detailed information about international noise emission requirements, standards for noise emissions, noise emission labeling, accreditation and certification requirements, and the role of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in compliance and enforcement issues.2


To understand how noise standards and regulations affect the ability of manufacturers to compete in national and international markets, it is important to distinguish between noise emission and noise immission.

Standards for noise emission—the sound emitted by a product independent of its location—allow a manufacturer to make a measurement of a specific piece of equipment under specified operating conditions and report the noise level, usually in the form of a “guaranteed level.” Usually, but not always, noise emission information is reported as the A-weighted sound power level. Appendix A is a primer on quantities used in noise control and acoustics.

Requirements related to noise immission—the sound pressure level at a listener’s ear—have been promulgated to address community noise worldwide. These requirements have been summarized by the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering (I-INCE, 2009).3


A wide variety of policies, regulations, and standards on noise emissions—local, national, regional, and international—have been published, and most countries have national standards organizations. In the United States the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the major nongovernmental organization that deals with product noise standards. In past decades the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was responsible for regulating some product noise emissions at the national level. For the purposes of this report, the most significant regional standards organizations and regulatory body for product noise emissions outside the United States are in Europe.

There are three major European nongovernmental standards organizations involved with product noise emission standards setting: the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), and Central European Initiative (CEI). The European Commission (EC) is responsible for regulating product noise emissions throughout the European Union (EU) using standards developed by CEN, CENELEC, and CEI. The international counterparts to CEN and CENELEC are the International Organization for Standardization (ISO; and the International Electrotechnical Commission (, which set product noise emission standards at the international level. In this section standards-setting activities and associated regulations are reviewed as they relate to noise emissions of machinery and equipment.

Product Noise Emission Standards and Regulations in the United States

American National Standards Institute

According to its website, “The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system.” ANSI’s mission is “to enhance both the global competitiveness of U.S. business and the U.S. quality of life by promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems, and safeguarding their integrity” (ANSI, 2009).

ANSI represents the United States in the ISO and IEC. ANSI neither develops standards nor funds the U.S. standards system. Rather it accredits and audits standards-setting committees that are funded and administered by engineering and scientific professional societies, industry associations, and other nongovernmental organizations. ANSI’s activities are supported by fees from these organizations (ASA, 2009b).

When ANSI allows a standard to be called an “ANSI Standard,” it is not making a technical judgment on the standard but stating that the standard was developed in accordance with operating procedures that facilitate openness, balance, and due process, and that the standard represents a consensus among those substantially concerned with its scope and provisions. Consensus is established when, in the judgment of the ANSI Board of Standards Review, substantial agreement has been reached by directly and materially affected interests. Substantial agreement means much more than a simple majority, but not necessarily unanimity. Consensus requires that all views and objections be considered and that a concerted effort be made toward their resolution. ANSI’s approval represents approval of the process, not the content.

The most important of these organizations are the four standards committees of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) on noise, acoustics, mechanical vibration and shock, and bioacoustics. ANSI-accredited standards committees related to noise are listed in Appendix C, Part A.

Even though ANSI standards reflect a consensus and are not mandatory, the procedures or criteria in those standards may be required by law, regulation, building code, or contract in specific situations. Thus, many federal regulations reference ANSI standards.


Vehicle noise emissions are not covered in this chapter. The World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, a group in the UNECE, deals with vehicle standards (UNECE, 2009).


Noise immission requirements in the workplace are discussed in Chapter 4.

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