The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, has proposed a rule revision for hearing protector device (HPD) labeling. Published August 5 in the Federal Register (Vol 74, No 149), the EPA’s proposal would substantially modify the testing requirements and the methods of computing and presenting the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), and would also extend labeling to a wider range of electronic and level-dependent hearing protectors for which no rating system had been previously available.

The Howard Leight "Understanding Ratings" page of its Web site defines the rating system as follows: "The NRR is used in the United States, and is accepted for use in a variety of other countries. The current range of NRRs available in the US market extends from 0 to 33 decibels. Published by the EPA in 1979, the NRR labeling requirement is a standardized format for all hearing protectors distributed in the United States. The EPA defines the type face size, font, wording and placement on the package for the NRR label. The chart showing mean attenuation values and standard deviations at each of the seven test frequencies (from 125 Hz through 8000 Hz) is also part of the labeling required by EPA."

From the agency’s published summary: "By this action the Environmental Protection Agency proposes to revise the Noise Labeling Standards for Hearing Protection Devices (HPD). These standards have not been amended since 1979 and technologies have evolved and improved in the interim. The proposed revisions provide manufacturers with newly developed testing methodologies that are the most appropriate to assess and label hearing protection devices, and to allow legitimate hearing protection products to be sold as such in U.S. markets. In particular, this action should result in the availability of a new generation of significantly improved devices that are precluded from entering the marketplace as ‘‘hearing protectors’’ by the 1979 regulation."

Before becoming law, there is a 30-day public comment period in effect, concluding on September 4. A public hearing may also occur if the EPA receives sufficient written requests. If such requests are received, the public hearing will take place in Washington on August 25. Upon the expiration of the public comment period, the EPA will issue a final rule, which may occur later this year.

The proposal states that new labels will have to appear on products within 2.5 years from the as-yet-to-be-determined effective date of the regulation.

A version of the proposed rule is available at via a keyword search of the following docket ID No.: EPA-HQ-OAR-2003-0024-0040.

Public comments can be delivered via the following options:

  • E-mail: [email protected]

  • Fax: (202) 566-1741

  • Mail: EPA Labeling Regulation, Docket Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2003-0024, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center, Mailcode 6102T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20460.

  • Hand Delivery: EPA Docket Center, Public Reading Room, EPA West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20460. 

SOURCE: Federal Register