Noise Control Act of 1972

In passing the Noise Control Act (NCA) of 1972, Congress hoped to "promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes health or welfare." The Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was charged with overseeing noise-abatement activities and coordinating its programs with those of other federal agencies that play an important role in noise control. The Noise Control Act was amended by the Quiet Communities Act of 1978 to promote the development of effective state and local noise control programs, to provide funds for noise research, and to produce and disseminate educational materials to the public on the harmful effects of noise and ways to effectively control it.

Throughout the 1970s ONAC issued reports identifying the products that are major sources of noise pollution and providing information on ways to control the noise they generate, for example, the regulation of noise emissions from aircraft. EPA publications included a public education and information manual for noise for schools and pamphlets on sound, sound measurement, and noise as a health problem. The EPA assisted communities in noise surveying, in designing local noise ordinances, and in the training of noise enforcement officers.

Faced with strong industry opposition, ONAC lost its funding in 1981 and the EPA's programs to control noise were halted. The Noise Control Act has never been rescinded, but it has also yet to be refunded. As of 2002, agencies such as the Department of Transportation, Department of Labor, and Federal Railroad Administration have developed their own noise control programs, with each agency setting its own criteria. In addition, states and cities have enacted noise ordinances, with some localities limiting noise more effectively than others.

Across the United States, antinoise groups are pressing local authorities to curb noise intrusions that have grown considerably over the past twenty years and are urging legislators to refund ONAC. Comprehensive federal oversight is needed to address transportation and product noises. With Europe and Japan working toward implementing modern noise-control policies (such as noise labeling of products), American manufacturers may find it difficult to meet foreign noise-emission standards. The European Noise Directive requires member nations to assess environmental noise exposure levels for their populations and to develop action plans to limit noise.



Bronzaft, Arline L. (1998). "A Voice to End the Government's Silence on Noise." Hearing Rehabilitation Quarterly 23, no. 1:6–12, 29.

Dallas, J.E. (1998). "The Quiet Communities Act of 1997: More than Meets the Ear." Hearing Rehabilitation Quarterly :16–22.

Shapiro, Sidney A. (1991). The Dormant Noise Control Act and Options to Abate Noise Pollution. Washington, D.C.: Report for the Administrative Conference of the United States.

Internet Resource

Noise Pollution Clearinghouse. Available from .

Arline L. Bronzaft

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