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A teacher of mine has several clippings from the local paper in his room. I'm not sure how old this clipping was or what paper it was from, but it claims that:

According to the US Census, noise is the most frequent complaint of urban Americans. Nearly half of us live in areas that are deemed to be acoustically unsafe by our government.

— Louis Holger, M.D. from Oakland, CA in "Noise Unhealthy" about Concord CA's noise ordnance

I interpret "us" to mean Americans because the paper is from a largely suburban area with little noise pollution and the fact that it was preceded by a statement about Americans as a whole.

First of all, does the US even have standards of "acoustic safety"?

Secondly, is there any source for the titular claim?

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Note: No date for the clipping has been provided, so the claim might no longer be true, even if it was. This answer gives a likely source for the claim - dated from 1981. Conditions may have changed in the intervening 36 years.

It sounds like this factoid may have been derived from:

Does the US even have standards of "acoustic safety"?

Yes.

From page 5:

In the Levels Document, EPA has identified an Ldn value of 55 dB outdoors as the level below which the public health and welfare would be protected with an adequate margin of safety in residential areas. Similarly, an Ldn value of 45 dB indoors is the level identified for an acceptable living space. In order to protect against hearing loss, an Leq(24) of 70 dB is the level identified (corresponding to an Leq(8) of 75 dB, when the 8-hour noise exposure dominates the 24-hour exposure). When these identified levels are exceeded, a noise "impact" is assumed to occur.

Do nearly half of Americans live in areas that are deemed acoustically unsafe?

Only for a rather broad definition of nearly.

Table 5 (page 20) shows an estimate of the number of millions of US population (to a "first approximation") exposed to above Ldn value of 58 dB (louder than the limit above) as 92.4 million.

In 1981, the population of the USA was about 230 million, so about 40% were exposed to above acceptable levels.

Is 40% "nearly half"? I'll leave that for the reader to decide.

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