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S. REP. No. 92–1160 92d Cong. 2d Sess. (1972)


SEPTEMBER 19, 1972.-Ordered to be printed

Mr. RANDOLPH, from the Committee on Public Works,
submitted the following


together with


[To accompany S. 3342]

The Committee on Public Works, to which was referred the bill (S. 3342) to amend title IV and to add a new title V to the Clean Air Act, and for other purposes, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon with amendments and recommends that the bill as amended do pass.


The growing public awareness over the quality of the environment has spotlighted another problem untouched by Federal regulation. Noise unwanted sound-is increasing in urban areas at a rate which may double the average person's exposure to it within 10 years. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution indicates clearly that the impact of noise goes well beyond mere unpleasantness, stress and other psychic effects. It in fact may cause serious physiological effects on the human body ranging from deafness to enhanced risk of cardiovascular disease to alteration of fetal nervous systems.

As with other forms of pollution, noise pollution is man-made. It occurs as a by-product of an enormous number of commercial and domestic machines.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, noise has a significant impact on more than 80 million Americans. Of those, about 40 million persons are literally listening to a health hazard, risking hearing impairment and other physiological and psychological effects.

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As many as 44 million Americans have the utility of their dwellings adversely affected by noise from aircraft or traffic, and 21 million more Americans are similarly affected by construction-related noise.

The acoustic vibrations which make up noise pollution are invisible. They leave no residue, and they disappear almost instantly when the source is turned off. However, noisemakers abound is our urban environment, making it almost impossible for the individual to find even a short unbroken period of rest or retreat from noise. The effects which occur as a result of a given noise environment depend on the intensity and character of the noise, the total exposure time, and the activity (such as conversation or rest) affected.

The myths and misconceptions perpetuated about the degrading effects of noise on the health and welfare of individuals have permitted the noise pollution problem to grow into a serious problem. A single measure of the impact is demonstrated by the number of compensation claims for hearing loss. These claims have increased tenfold in recent years with every indication of judgments reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars in the near future. But the economic costs of compensation are only part of the total impact of noise pollution. An accurate estimate of the total costs would have to include physical damage to structures, loss of property values, interruption of the educational process, interference with communication, hearing loss and other health effects. The dollar costs cannot accurately reflect the intangibles, which involve annoyance, frustration, chronic stress, and suffering.

The Committee learned from audiologists and other expert witnesses that there are many misconceptions about the effects of noise on hearing and other aspects of health. These result, in part from the subtle and misleading symptoms which occur in the process of gradually increasing hearing loss.

Individuals often have few clues which indicate the insidious progression of physiological damage to the ear. There is no pain-no bleeding. Yet, during noise exposure, microscopically tiny hair cell receptors, buried deep in the inner ear and delicately poised in their fragile array, are torn from their roots or gradually beaten into insensitivity by incessant vibrations.

The individual's perception of this process belies its true impact on the delicate mechanism of hearing. Whether the individual is an industrial worker or a member of a hard-rock band, hearing ability following temporary hearing loss due to noise exposure, seemingly returns to normal after a day or so of rest, suggesting to the unwary victim that no permanent damage was incurred. Audiologists affirm, however, that repeated acoustic insults to the ear leave a residual permanent damage which accumulates over time.

Information presented to the Committee indicates that noise has effects on other physiological systems in addition to hearing, and on psychological factors as well. Noise appears to directly alter heart rhythms and constricts blood vessels. The 1972 Report on Noise of the Environmental Protection Agency stated, "... there is some evidence that worker exposed to high levels of noise have a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, ear-nose-and-throat disorders, and equilibrium disorders than do workers exposed to lower levels of noise" and ". there is evidence from animal research that high sound levels can inter

fere with sexual-reproductive functions (and) can interfere with resistance to viral disease . . .


Individuals who are subjected to high noise levels for extended periods, or who cannot rest or sleep in residential circumstances substantially quieter than their work place, appear to run a high risk of psychological distress. One study of workers showed men working in noisy conditions to be more aggressive, distrustful and even paranoiac than similar workers in a quieter setting. The failure to obtain a markedly lower noise level at home than in the working place, to provide a recuperative period for mental processes, has been shown to have psychological costs in family stability. Many individuals in this Nation, already affected by health problems such as high blood pressure and emotional illness, are especially susceptible and need protection from the added stress of noise, according to information gathered by the Committee.

Property values suffer markedly from high levels of noise. In a study conducted by the City of Inglewood, California, a community affe ed by noise from Los Angeles International Airport, land subject to noise levels less than 80 PndB was valued an average 50% higher than land subject to noise levels greater than 110 PndB. This appears to be related not only to aircraft noise in residential areas but to the constant disruption of local schools by aircraft noise.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires that no worker be subjected to 115 dBA for more than 15 minutes or to 90 dBA for more than eight hours. (The term "dBA" is a measurement of sound intensity in decibels, on the A scale which is theoretically weighted toward those frequencies predominant in human response. An increase of 10dBA, since such units are logarithmic, would be an increase of 100%.) These standards which are a first step toward health protective standards moderated by considerations of cost and technology and therefore protective of only 70 to 80% of exposed workers, are commonly exceeded in the non-occupational environment. A power mower, a subway at 35 miles per hour, and a compressor at 20 feet each attain 95dBA. A jet flyover at 1000 feet is 103dBA, and a jet take-off reaches 110 to 120dBA. A rock band easily scales 108 to 114dBA. Obviously, multiple sources dramatically increase the level to which any individual is exposed.

The success of any new legislation on noise pollution ultimately will have to be measured in terms of a) its impact on reducing hearing loss and other direct effects on health, b) its ability to establish levels of noise in the environment conductive to good communication; and c) its success in providing environments free of noise pollution at times and in areas where relaxation and sleep are needed.

At the turn of the century, Robert Koch, the Nobel laureate who worked to control contagious disease wrote: "The day will come when men will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and plague." That day is here, and this bill provides tools to begin the fight.

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The major regulatory thrust of this legislation is to require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish noise emission standards for newly manufactured products which are major sources of noise, on the theory that Federal action is needed to effectively deal with the noise problems created by vehicles, construction equipment, and other machinery which move so commonly in interstate commerce. As with other types of environmental pollution, control of emisions at the source is considered the most effective contribution which the Federal Government can make in reducing levels of environmental noise.

The standards would cover new products, those which have never before been sold to a consumer, whic are manufactured after the effective date of standards. Remanufactured and rebuilt products whose original functions have been restored by a manufacturer are defined as new products. However, noise emission standards are to be established for such rebuilt products on the basis of what can be achieved for products of that class, i.e., rebuilt products, and not what is being required of newly manufactured products of a similar type.

The term "manufacturer" is defined to exclude "dealers", unless a dealer's assembly work involves modifications increasing the noise characteristics of the product. The purpose of this distinction is to fix responsibility for compliance with noise emission standards and liability for warranty costs on the party actually responsible for the noise emission characteristics of the product.

The term "product" specifically excludes aircraft and related components. The intention of the Committee is to separate the treatment of aircraft under Title V from the treatment of products which are major sources of noise under Tile IV, except where specifically included.

The bill also provides extensive research and investigation authority, not only for noise emissions from products and aircraft, but for examining the effects of noise on humans and other living systems. The concept of the Audiological Data Bank has emerged as a valuable means whereby individuals' attitudes about noise, hearing and hearing loss can be recorded along with various indices of hearing ability. Data in the bank must come from many sources, and cover the entire age range. Each computerized record provides a longitudinal index on individuals or groups, permitting a careful evaluation of the long term effects of various noise environments, as well as changes or trends which occur overtime. A Data Bank of this type, such as the one being organized at the Stanford Medical School, should be supported by the research and long-term health effects study funds available under section 405.

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Section 407 (a) requires the Administrator to issue noise criteria within nine months after enactment, reflecting all the identifiable effects of differing quantities and qualities of noise on public health or welfare. He will be expected to produce criteria documents very much like those prepared under the Clean Air Act for similar uses. These criteria must set forth the levels of environmental noise the attainment and maintenance of which, in defined areas under various conditions, are requisite to protect the public health and welfare with an adequate margin of safety.

The concept of "environmental noise" is used through the bill to describe the overall level of noise in a given area to which individuals are exposed, including the intensity, duration, and character of sounds from all sources. It also includes the concept of a limitation on noise which would be applicable to every individual source in such a defined geographic area.


Within fifteen months after enactment, the Administrator is required by section 407 (b) to publish reports identifying products which appear to be major sources of noise. Identification as a major source of noise is the first step in the development of noise emission standards for particular products. Of course, the Committee expects the Administrator to begin drafting possible noise emission standards for a product as soon as his initial investigations suggest that it might be identified as a major source of noise. This is necessary because noise emission standards must be promulgated for any product identified in the initial list of major sources within 18 months after enactment.

In view of the special purposes, attributes and uses of motor racing vehicles, such as Indianapolis cars and stock cars, it is the intent of the Committee that the Administrator will not designate as a "major source of noise" vehicles or engines, or any components or accessories thereof, which are manufactured for modified for, or utilized exclusively in organized competitive off-highway motorsports events. Likewise the Committee does not expect the Administration to identify church bells or carillons in major sources of noise.

Noise emission standards must be established for any major source of noise which falls into the categories of construction equipment, transportation equipment, motors or engines, turbines and compressors, percussion and explosive equipment, or electrical and electronic equipment (other than sound reproduction equipment). These standards must take effect, with respect to products manufactured after that date, no later than two years after the date of promulgation or any shorter period which permits the application of the necessary technology. The Administrator is given authority to define "effective date" in such a way as to prevent the stockpiling of inventories to circumvent the purpose of the standards.

Standards for new products are required to set limits on noise emissions which in the Administrator's judgment reflect the degree of noise reduction achievable through the application of the best available technology, taking into account the cost of compliance. The difficulty of

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