Environment: Rumblings About Noise

"A second battle of Gettysburg" is what AFL-CIO Executive George Taylor hyperbolically calls the U.S. Department of Labor hearings that start this week in Washington. At issue: regulation of the amount of noise in U.S. factories, a billion-dollar problem that another AFL-CIO official terms "the most ubiquitous hazard in the workplace."

Since 1971, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recommended, but barely enforced, a maximum of 90 decibels—the sound of a heavy truck—throughout an eight-hour workday. OSHA wants to keep to that level. The Environmental Protection Agency and the...

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