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Ear Buds to be Investigated as a Public Health Concern

Published: 03/12/2013

Last Updated: 02/21/2018

In New York State, a bill is pending in the legislature’s transportation committee that would ban the use of mobile phones, iPods or other electronic devices while crossing streets.  The thought is that a distracted pedestrian is a pedestrian in peril.

Additionally, part of this safety campaign is a proposed ban on ear buds and headphones.  In fact, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to spend as much as $250,000 to investigate the damage caused by these portable listening devices when played at high volumes.

In a recent health report by the chief health and medical editor for ABC News, Dr. Richard Besser, a survey of several New Yorkers proved that people are listening to their music devices at levels commonly over 85 dB -where permanent damage can occur- and frequently over 100 dB.

New York City is no stranger to the public health hazards relating to high decibel levels. You only need to stand on a subway platform to understand these concerns.  In a 2006 survey of noise levels of the New York City transit system, researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health measured the average maximum noise level on subway platforms to be 94 decibels (dBs). The average maximum inside of subway cars was 95 dBs. Exposure to noise at these levels can cause permanent damage to hearing over time.  Unlike most subways around the world, New York City does not use noise-reducing wheels for its trains.  For decades they have been used in Boston and Washington DC and have effectively reduced the decibel levels to quieter and safer ranges.

Mayor Bloomberg's office has taken serious action in support of public health.  In recent years, New York City has passed laws concerning salt content in food and has reduced the size offerings of soda drinks within the city.

2013 NY Times article http://nyti.ms/ZuY92S

ABC News piece http://abcn.ws/WZLES3


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