World Health Organization 1999 Larry Finegold
Abstract from Guidelines for Community Noise
United States of America
Noise Exposure
In the United States, there have only been a few major attempts to describe broad environmental noise exposures. Early estimates for the average daily exposure of various population groups were reported in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencys Levels Document (US EPA 1974), but these were only partially verified by subsequent large-scale measurements. Another EPA publication the same year provided estimates of the national population distribution as a function of outdoor noise level, and established population density as the primary predictor of a communitys noise exposure (Galloway et al. 1974).
Methodological issues that need be considered when measuring community noise, including both temporal and geographic sampling techniques, have been addressed by Eldred (1975). This paper also provided early quantitative estimates of noise exposure at a variety of sites, from an isolated spot on the North rim of the Grand Canyon to a spot in downtown Harlem in New York City. Another nationwide survey focused on exposure to everyday urban noises, rather than the more traditional approach of measuring exposure to high-level transportation noise from aircraft, traffic and rail (Fidell 1978). This study included noise exposure and human response data from over 2 000 participants at 24 sites.
A comprehensive report, Noise In America: The Extent of the Problem, included estimates of occupational noise exposure in the US in standard industrial classification categories (Bolt, Beranek & Newman, Inc. 1981). A more recent paper reviewed the long-term trends of noise exposure in the US and its impact over a 30-year time span, starting in the early 1970s. The focus was primarily on motor vehicle and aircraft noise, and the prediction was for steadily decreasing population-weighted day-night sound exposure (Eldred 1988). However, it remains to be seen whether the technological improvements in noise emission, such as changing from Chapter 2 to Chapter 3 aircraft, will be offset in the long run by the larger carriers and increased operations levels that are forecast for all transportation modes. Although never implemented in its entirety, a comprehensive plan for measuring community environmental noise and associated human responses was proposed over 25 years ago in the US (Sutherland et al. 1973). Environmental Noise Policy in the United States
One of the first major breakthroughs in developing an environmental noise policy in the United States occurred in 1969 with the adoption of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This Congressional Act mandated that the environmental effects of any major development project be assessed if federal funds were involved in the project. Through the Noise Control Act (NCA) of 1972, the U.S. Congress directed the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish scientific information about the kind and extent of all identifiable effects of different qualities and quantities of noise. The US EPA was also requested to define acceptable noise levels under various conditions that would protect the public health and welfare with an adequate margin of safety.
To accomplish this objective, the 1974 US EPA Levels Document formally introduced prescribed noise descriptors and prescribed levels of environmental noise exposure. Along with its companion document, Guidelines for Preparing Environmental Impact Statements on Noise, which was published by the U.S. National Research Council in 1977, the Levels Document has been the mainstay of U.S. environmental noise policy for nearly a quarter of a century. These documents were supplemented by additional Public Laws, Presidential Executive Orders, and many-tiered noise exposure guidelines, regulations, and Standards. Important examples include Guidelines for Considering Noise in Land Use Planning and Control, published in 1980 by the US Federal Interagency Committee on Urban Noise; and Guidelines for Noise Impact Analysis, published in 1982 by the US EPA.
One of the distinctive features of the US EPA Levels Document is that it does not establish regulatory goals. This is because the noise exposure levels identified in this document were determined by a negotiated scientific consensus and were chosen without concern for their economic and technological feasibility; they also included an additional margin of safety. For these reasons, an A-weighted Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) of 55 dB was selected in the Levels Document as that required to totally protect against outdoor activity interference and annoyance. Land use planning guidelines developed since its publication allow for an outdoor DNL exposure in non-sensitive areas of up to 65 dB before sound insulation or other noise mitigation measures must be implemented. Thus, separation of short-, medium- and long-term goals allow noise-exposure goals to be established that are based on human effects research data, yet still allow for the financial and technological constraints within which all countries must work.
The US EPAs Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) provided a considerable amount of impetus to the development of environmental noise policies for about a decade in the US. During this time, several major US federal agencies, including the US EPA, the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Interagency Committee on Noise have all published important documents addressing environmental noise and its effects on people. Lack of funding, however, has made the EPA ONAC largely ineffective in the past decade. A new bill, the Quiet Communities Act has recently been introduced in the U.S. Congress to re-enact and fund this office (House of Representatives Bill, H.R. 536). However, the passage of this bill is uncertain, because noise in the US, as in Europe, has not received the attention that other environmental issues have, such as air and water quality.
In the USA there is growing debate over whether to continue to rely on the use of DNL (and the A-Weighted Equivalent Continuous Sound Pressure Level upon which DNL is based) as the primary environmental noise exposure metric, or whether to supplement it with other noise descriptors. Because a growing number of researchers believe that Sound Exposure is more understandable to the public, the American National Standards Institute has prepared a new Standard, which allows the equivalent use of either DNL or Sound Exposure (ANSI 1996). The primary purpose of this new standard, however, is to provide a methodology for modeling the Combined or Total Noise Environment, by making numerical adjustments to the exposure levels from various noise sources before assessing their predicted impacts on people.
A companion standard (ANSI 1998) links DNL and Sound Exposure with the current USA land use planning table. The latter is currently being updated by a team of people from various federal government agencies and when completed should improve the capabilities of environmental and community land-use planners. These documents will complement the newly revised ANSI standard on acoustical terminology (ANSI 1994).
To summarize progress in noise control made in the USA in the nearly 25 years since the initial national environmental noise policy documents were written, the Acoustical Society of America held a special session in Washington, D.C. in 1995. The papers presented in this special session were then published as a collaborative effort between the Acoustical Society of America and the Institute of Noise Control Engineering (von Gierke & Johnson 1996). This document is available from the Acoustical Society of America, as are a wide range of standards related to various environmental noise and bioacoustics topics from the ANSI.
A document from the European Union is now also available, which includes guidelines for addressing noise in environmental assessments (EU 1996). Policy documents from organizations such as ISO, CEN, and ICAO have shown that international cooperation is quite possible in the environmental noise arena. The ISO document, entitled Acoustics - Description and Measurement of Environmental Noise (ISO 1996), and other international standards have already proven themselves to be invaluable in moving towards the development of a harmonized environmental noise policy. The best way to move forward in developing a harmonized environmental noise policy is to take a look at the various national policies that have already been adopted in many countries, including those both from the European member states and from the USA, and to decide what improvements need to be made to the existing policy documents. A solid understanding of the progress that has already been achieved around the world would obviously provide the foundation for the development of future noise policies.
Concepts and Tools
Development of appropriate policies, regulations, and standards, particularly in the noise measurement and impact assessment areas, is a necessary foundation for implementing effective noise abatement policies and noise control programs. A well-trained cadre of environmental planners will be needed in the future to perform land-use planning and environmental impact analysis. These professionals will require both a new generation of standardized noise propagation models to deal with the Total Noise Environment, as well as sophisticated computer based impact analysis and land-use planning tools.
A more thorough description of the current noise environment in major cities, suburbs, and rural areas is needed to support the noise policy development process. A new generation of noise measurement and monitoring systems, along with standards related to their use, are already providing considerable improvement in our ability to accurately describe complex noise environments. Finally, both active and passive noise control technologies, and other noise mitigation techniques, are rapidly becoming available for addressing local noise problems. Combined with a strong public awareness and education program, land-use planning and noise abatement efforts certainly have the potential to provide us with an environment with acceptable levels of noise exposure.
ANSI 1994 American National American Standard Acoustical Terminology. American National Standard S1. American National Standards Institute, New York, NY, USA. ANSI 1996)
Quantities and Procedures for Description and Measurement of Environmental Sound - Part 4: Assessment and Prediction of Long-Term Community Response. American National Standard S12.9-Part 4, American National Standard Institute, New York, NY, USA. ANSI 1998
Quantities and Procedures for Description and Measurement of Environmental Sound - Part 5: Sound Level Descriptors for Determination of Compatible Land Use.
American National Standard S12.9-Part 5, American National Standard Institute, New York, NY, USA.
Bolt, Beranek, Newman, Inc. (BBN) 1981 Noise in America: The extent of the problem. Cambridge, MA, USA. Eldred km 1975
Assessment of community noise. Noise Control Engineering Journal 3: 88-95. Eldred km 1988 Noise at the year 2000.
In Proceedings of the Fifth International Congress on Noise as a Public Health Problem (B. Berglund et al., eds.). Stockholm: Swedish Council for Building Research. Fidell S (1978)
Nationwide urban noise survey. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 64: 198-206.
Galloway W, Eldred K, and Simpson M 1974 Population distribution of the United States as a function of outdoor noise. US Environmental Protection Agency Report No. 550/9-74-009. Washington, D.C., USA.
Schori JR, McGatha EA (1973) A real-world assessment of noise exposure. Sound and Vibration 12: 24-30. Sutherland LC, Braden, MH, and Colman R 1973
A programm for the measurement of environmental noise in the community and its associated human response. Vols. I and II. Report No. DOT-TST-74-5, Washington, D.C.: Department of Transportation, Office of Noise Abatement.
US EPA 1974 Information on levels of environmental noise requisite to protect public health and welfare with an adequate margin of safety.
EPA/ONAC Report 550/9-74-004, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., USA.
von Gierke HE, Johnson LC 1996 Noise Control - Where Do We Stand Today? Noise Control Engineering Journal.

Noise pollution


( 2600-80)



Noise. Methods of noise measurement in residential areas and in the rooms of residential, public and community buildings

Decibel Table − SPL − Loudness Comparison Chart

AO Smith GPHE-50 Power vent noise

Examples of sound pressure and sound pressure levels
Source of sound
Sound pressure
Sound pressure level
Sound in air
pascal RMS
dB re 20 μPa
Shockwave (distorted sound waves > 1 atm; waveform valleys are clipped at zero pressure)
>101,325 Pa
>194 dB
Theoretical limit for undistorted sound at 1 atmosphere environmental pressure
101,325 Pa
~194.094 dB
Stun grenades
6,00020,000 Pa
170180 dB
Rocket launch equipment acoustic tests
~4000 Pa
~165 dB
Simple open-ended thermoacoustic device[6]
12,619 Pa
176 dB
.30-06 rifle being fired 1 m to shooter's side
7,265 Pa
171 dB (peak)
M1 Garand rifle being fired at 1 m
5,023 Pa
168 dB
Jet engine at 30 m
632 Pa
150 dB
Threshold of pain
63.2 Pa
130 dB
Vuvuzela horn at 1 m
20 Pa
120 dB(A)[7]
Hearing damage (possible)
20 Pa
approx. 120 dB
Jet engine at 100 m
6.32 200 Pa
110 140 dB
Jack hammer at 1 m
2 Pa
approx. 100 dB
Traffic on a busy roadway at 10 m
2×10−1 6.32×10−1 Pa
80 90 dB
Hearing damage (over long-term exposure, need not be continuous)
0.356 Pa
85 dB[8]
Passenger car at 10 m
2×10−2 2×10−1 Pa
60 80 dB
EPA-identified maximum to protect against hearing loss and other disruptive effects from noise, such as sleep disturbance, stress, learning detriment, etc.
70 dB[9]
Handheld electric mixer
65 dB
TV (set at home level) at 1 m
2×10−2 Pa
approx. 60 dB
Washing machine, dish washer
50-53 dB
Normal conversation at 1 m
2×10−3 2×10−2 Pa
40 60 dB
Very calm room
2×10−4 6.32×10−4 Pa
20 30 dB
Light leaf rustling, calm breathing
6.32×10−5 Pa
10 dB
Auditory threshold at 1 kHz
2×10−5 Pa
0 dB[8]