Daniel Fink, MD, Acting Chair, Health Advisory Council
For landscape workers, occupational noise is a daily hazard. According to the National Association of Landscaping Professionals, most of the gas equipment land care professionals use exceed the 85 decibel occupational safety threshold established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — some more than 1000 times! Although workers supposedly have legal protection from noise exposure under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, it is more common than not to see workers without hearing protection. A 25 year old worker exposed to these levels of noise unprotected has a 2 in 3 chance of hearing loss by the time s/he is 35.
But, the risks of loud noise extend far beyond hearing damage. In this report, the US Centers for Disease Control documents the risks of increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as hearing loss, in workers exposed to noise. Many research studies, the overwhelming majority from Europe, document these non-auditory health impacts of noise in the public, too, but it’s good to see these issues finally being noticed in the U.S.