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IP/09/120

Brussels, 23 January 2009

Consumers: European Commission gathers experts to tackle the health risks from personal music players

Meglena Kuneva, European Commissioner for Consumers, will give a keynote speech at a conference in Brussels on 27 January, which will look at measures that can be taken to tackle the health risks that personal music players can pose to listeners. Last October, an opinion from the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) found that 5-10% of personal music player listeners risk permanent hearing loss if they listen to a personal music player at high volume settings for more than one hour per day over a period of at least 5 years. The conference will bring together EU Member State experts, scientists, industry, consumer organisations, standard makers, MEPs and other stakeholders, to discuss precautions that users can take, technical solutions that industry could apply to minimise hearing damage, and whether there is a need for further regulation or revision of existing safety standards to better protect consumers.

EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, said, "I am concerned that up to 10 million people in the EU, who are frequent users of personal music players and mobile phones at high acoustic levels, may be unknowingly damaging their hearing. In the light of the recent scientific advice, we need to act quickly, to look again at the controls in place, to make sure they are fully effective and keep pace with new technology so that consumers benefit from the highest safety standards."

The event

The one day conference, hosted by the Commission, will bring together key stakeholders from all relevant sectors, including representatives from Nokia, Apple, the French Ministry of Health, the UK Royal National Institute for Deaf People and the Spanish Confederation of Consumer and Users. It will take place on 27 January (9.00-18.00) at the Centre Albert Borschette, Brussels. Registration will be on a first-come-first-served basis, and can be done by e-mail to the following address: sanco-unit-b3@ec.europa.eu, providing your name, function and contact details. Footage will be available on EbS.

Background

In recent years sales of personal music players have soared, in particular those of MP3 players. Overall, in the EU, it is estimated that roughly 50 to 100 million people may be listening to portable music players on a daily basis.

In the last four years, estimated unit sales range between 184-246 million for all portable audio devices and range between 124-165 million for MP3 players. Across the EU, many millions of people use personal music players daily and, if they use them inappropriately, put themselves at risk of hearing damage.

A European safety standard already exists restricting the noise level of personal music players to 100 dB, but there is increased concern over hearing damage from excessive exposure to such sources. Such damage can be prevented to a large extent by measures such as reducing the noise exposure levels and duration. The EU Scientific Committee opinion highlighted that users of personal music players - if they listen for only 5 hours per week at high volume control settings (exceeding 89 decibels) would exceed the current limits in place for noise allowed in the workplace. Users listening for longer periods risk permanent hearing loss after 5 years. This approximates to 5-10% of the listeners, which may be between 2.5 and 10 million people in the EU.

Press release on the Scientific Committee's Opinion on personal music players: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/08/1492&type=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en


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