Posts Tagged ‘noisy toys’

Every day, almost 140 million Americans experience noise levels that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes as “annoying
or disruptive.”(xiv) Karen A. Bilich writes that children “are especially vulnerable to noise induced hearing loss – which often happens gradually and without pain – from overexposure to noise.”(xv) Almost 15 percent of children ages 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss, according to a 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. However, at this time there are no federal regulations in the United States that limit the noise levels of toys. The European standard is inadequate because it sets the sound threshold too high at 115 decibels, at which an exposure of less than 30 seconds can cause hearing loss. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that prolonged exposure to sounds at 85 decibels or higher can result in hearing damage (xvi). The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Campaign for Hearing Health also use 85 decibels as a threshold for dangerous levels of noise. The National Campaign for Hearing Health, in its Toxic Noise Guidelines, lists the following relationships between decibel levels and times of exposure (xvii):

• 85 decibels: Exposure over an 8-hour period risks hearing loss.
• 90 decibels: Exposure for 2 hours risks hearing loss.
• 97 decibels: Exposure for 30 minutes risks hearing loss.
• 100 decibels: Exposure for 15 minutes risks hearing loss.
• 110 decibels: Exposure for less than 2 minutes risks hearing loss
• 120 decibels: Exposure less than 30 seconds risks hearing loss.
• 130 decibels: Any exposure risks permanent hearing loss.

Standards for Loud Toys
As of November 2003, The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) finalized specifications for sound-producing toys that include (1) limiting the sound pressure level of hand-held, table-top and crib toys to a level not to exceed 90dB when measured from a distance of 25 centimeters; (2) limiting the sound pressure level of close-to-the-ear toys to a level not to exceed 70dB when measured from a distance of 25 centimeters; (3) limiting the sound pressure level of toys with impact-type impulsive sounds to a level not to exceed 120dB when measured from a distance of 25 centimeters; (4) limiting the sound pressure level of toys with explosive-type impulsive sounds to a level not to exceed 138dB when measured from a distance of 25 centimeters.

There are numerous exceptions to the standards(xviii) and the standards are voluntary. The standards, while a solid step in the right direction, are flawed (xix) and should be strengthened and stronger standards should be enforced by the CPSC.

This year, NYPIRG researchers identified numerous toys that were dangerously loud. For example, a surveyor identified a toy called “Learn Through Music” manufactured by Fisher Price that produces noise at 102dB at 10 centimeters and 92dB at 25 centimeters.

Fisher Price’s “Learn Through Music” is a dangerously loud toy targeted to very young children


To protect children from dangerously loud toys, NYPIRG supports the recommendations of the League for the Hard of Hearing: (1) If a toy sounds too loud for you in the store, don’t buy it. Children are even more sensitive to sound than adults. (2) Put tape over the speakers of any toys you already own that are too loud. This will reduce the noise levels of the toys. (3) Remove the batteries from loud toys. (4) Report a loud toy to the CPSC.

CPSC should: (1) Enforce the new ASTM standards to the fullest extent. (2) Consider strengthening the standards to be more protective of children’s delicate ears. Specifically, CPSC should consider lowering the threshold for hand-held toys from 90 dB to no higher than 85 dB.


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