(ok, maybe Haino and stock cars are a weird fit. But that didn’t stop Juan Pablo Montoya)

The New York Times’ Viv Bernstein
reports on a pair o National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health studies that conclude NASCAR’s noise levels are “hazardous not only for fans, but also for drivers, crew members and everyone else who spends time at a racetrack.”

A co-author of the studies, Dr. Luann E. Van Campen, said Niosh viewed Bristol as a worst-case situation for noise because of the bowl-like stadium track surrounded by stands that rise 21 stories. Chemical and noise exposures were measured at Bristol Motor Speedway and at an undisclosed race team shop. The study found chemical exposure to be low but noise exposure high.

œEmployees involved in stock car racing are routinely exposed to extreme levels of noise, and auditory damage will ensue eventually, according to the report™s conclusion. œMore immediate concerns include the occupational risks posed by possible noise-induced fatigue, stress and miscommunication.

Chucri A. Kardous, a Niosh engineer and a co-author of the studies, said the noise level of 43 cars during a race was œequivalent to a jet engine”.

Nascar could use mufflers to reduce the noise during races.

œThat™s the primary source of the noise, so obviously, that would be the top recommendation if we could make it, Kardous said.

But Nascar spokesman Jim Hunter said the organization tried mufflers in the 1960s and that they did not have a significant effect on decibel levels. Besides, it would be a hard sell for fans like Josh Whitt, 28, who watched practice Friday without any hearing protection even though he had a headset in his backpack.

œYou know you should do it, but it takes away from it a little bit, he said.

œJust bring a lot of Goody™s headache powder. Never leave home without that.