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Though hearing loss is the most clearly understood noise hazard, other serious threats to health are posed by noise, in particular those illnesses called diseases of stress. Important links have been researched between noise exposures and cardiovascular problems, especially, and growing evidence associates noise with psychological, social and economic effects. Although present knowledge of these effects is sufficient to support present regulatory efforts, indications of additional and serious effects from noise call for greater research investigation. In an effort to reduce these adverse effects, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a series of strategies to control noise from major sources. Using urban traffic and freeway noise as examples, the contribution of these sources to public exposure has been analyzed and emission levels set for interstate motor carriers, trucks, buses and motorcycles, with other motor vehicle sources to be regulated in the future. To hold surface transportation noise levels at no higher than those of today will require substantial further action. Significant advances in available technology must be made to lower emission levels. EPA currently conducts and coordinates Federal research activities, but the total Federal research budget has declined drastically since 1973 when the Noise Control Act was enacted. This reduction in funds is a constraining factor on noise standard setting. There are 15 million people impacted by aircraft noise, but the Noise Control Act provides EPA with no effective way of reducing aircraft noise emissions. Another constraint in promulgating effective regulations is the lack of adequate measurement methodologies for many products. The greatest future needs are for products subject to labeling, particularly household and consumer products. In order to deal effectively with these problems, strong state and local noise control programs are essential, without which the Federal efforts would not be fully effective. The states can play major roles in promoting local ordinances, and enforcing standards. Because national ambient standards have not been mandated by Congress, the noise program includes a unique set of assistance programs to states and localities. Among these are model ordinances and model product specifications, demonstration projects, training of elected officials, noise control officials and police officers, using trained volunteers to deliver technical assistance and senior citizens to implement certain portions of the local effort.
non-auditory health effects, surface transportation noise, measurement methodologies, labeling, regulated products, technical assistance to states and localities, the Quiet Communities Act of 1978
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Noise Control Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.