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EU Acts To Limit Health Risks From Exposure To Noise From Personal Music Players October 15, 2009

Posted by David W. King in Uncategorized.

Consumers will benefit from new default settings on personal music players set at safe exposure levels, as well clear warnings on the adverse effects of excessive exposure to high sound levels, following a decision by the European Commission today.

In October 2008, the EU Scientific Committee SCENIHR 1 , warned that listening to personal music players at a high volume over a sustained period can lead to permanent hearing damage. 5-10% of listeners risk permanent hearing loss. These are people typically listening to music for over 1 hour a day at high volume control settings.

The European Commission sent a mandate to CENELEC (the EU standardisation body) requiring new technical safety standards to be drawn up.

EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, said, “It’s easy to push up the sound levels on your MP3 player to damagingly loud levels, especially on busy streets or public transport. Bridget Cosgrave, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE, said, “Consumers’ safety has the highest priority for the digital technology industry. DIGITALEUROPE looks forward to working with the European Commission and standards bodies to serve consumer interests.”

The current rules
Existing EU standards currently prescribe no maximum sound limit nor require any specific labelling in respect of volume levels but require that a statement be put in the instruction manual to warn of the adverse effects of exposure to excessive sound level.

The new proposals – the mandate for new safety standards

The mandate, proposed by the European Commission with 27 Member States, covers all personal music players and mobile phones with a music playing function. It provides that:

* Safe exposure levels shall be the “default” settings on products. The mandate makes it clear that safe use depends on exposure time and volume levels. The safe exposure levels defined above shall be the default settings on products. Higher exposure levels can be permitted, provided that they have been intentionally selected by the user and the product incorporates a reliable means to inform the user of the risks.

EU standards are drawn up by CENELEC (European standard setting body) in a process, involving scientists, industry and consumer groups as well as other stake holders, it can take up to 24 months. EU standards are not mandatory, however if the new standard is approved by the European Commission and published in the Official Journal of the European Union, it “de facto” becomes the industry norm. Products meeting those standards are presumed safe – otherwise manufacturers have to go through costly independent testing for products. The new safety standards will apply only to future products.


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