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EPA Establishes New Noise Label Program

NOTE: In the past, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) coordinated all federal noise control activities through its Office of Noise Abatement and Control. However, In 1981, the Administration at that time concluded that noise issues were best handled at the State or local government level. As a result, the EPA phased out the office's funding in 1982 as part of a shift in federal noise control policy to transfer the primary responsibility of regulating noise to state and local governments. However, the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the Quiet Communities Act of 1978 were not rescinded by Congress and remain in effect today, although essentially unfunded. View more information about noise pollution from EPA's Office of Air and Radiation and in our Frequently Questions database.

[EPA press release - September 12, 1979]

A program designed to provide consumers with information about the noise characteristics of new products through a labeling system has been established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA Administrator Douglas M. Costle has approved a new regulation which will require manufacturers to affix labels to products that produce noise capable of adversely affecting public health or welfare and products that are sold to reduce noise.

The labels on noise-emitting products will provide the consumer with a Noise Rating. This will be a number showing the number of decibels of noise the product emits. The label also will provide the range in decibels of noise emitted by the same product made by other manufacturers. The lower the rating, the quieter the product will be.

The labels for noise reducing products will bear a Noise Reduction Rating. This will be a number giving a measure of the product's effectiveness in reducing noise. The label also will provide the range of noise reduction ratings for competing products. The higher the rating the more effective the product should be.

Thus the consumer will be able to tell at a glance the relative noise characteristics of a specific brand of product by comparing its Noise Rating or Noise Reduction Rating to those of other brands. The first products selected for ratings are hearing protectors. Other products will be identified on a continuing basis.

Costle said that in general EPA will put primary emphasis on requiring labels on products used in and around the home. Typical products included in this category are home shop tools, household appliances such as vacuum cleaners and air conditioners, and lawn and garden equipment, such as chain saws.

The regulation calling for noise labels was written in response to a Congressional directive in Section 8 of the Noise Control Act of 1972 that the public be given notice of the noise-producing or noise reducing characteristics of products.

An alternative for manufacturers to EPA's mandated noise labeling program would be to establish programs of their own. Several industries already are at work on such programs.

EPA strongly encourages voluntary noise labeling programs. However, the Agency said, they must meet the goals set forth in the law and clearly state the noise characteristic of the particular product bearing the label. An industry-wide label that would provide only a single rating for all affected products wold not meet EPA's requirement to provide the prospective user with comparative noise information on competing products.

Under the labeling regulations, manufacturers will be responsible for conducting noise tests on their products according to the EPA procedures and will be responsible for test accuracy. Manufacturers will also be responsible for assuring that labels contain all necessary information and that they are properly affixed to the products or product packaging, or convey such information to prospective users in some other fashion stipulated by EPA regulations.

EPA enforcement of the labeling program will include monitoring of manufacturers' tests, and inspection of test facilities, records, and the labeled products themselves. The EPA Administrator is also authorized to issue remedial orders to manufacturers who mislabel their products. These orders can require retesting, re-labeling, and even product recall if appropriate.

EPA's labeling program has been developed with the intent of minimizing its economic impact on the public, affected industries, and the Government. Test procedures will be made as simple as possible and labeling requirements will be flexible and permit reasonable latitude in package design and product marketing. The labeling of hearing protectors will result in only slight increases in the costs of these items to consumers, and the Agency expects that this will be true as well for other products that might be subject to future labeling action.