Articles Quiet Coalition2021-05-12T11:07:49-04:00

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2109, 2021

Earplugs aren’t necklaces

September 21st, 2021|

Photo credit: Wendy Wei from Pexels

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist

A recent article in the IRN Post warns of hearing difficulties caused by loud music exposure at concerts. It starts off well by identifying the 70 dB noise limit. But the discussion switches to ≥85 dB noise as the main danger, as if there was little risk of tinnitus and hearing loss from sound exposure below 85 dB.

Some other statements seem factual with a side of not factual. The worst example is their recommendation on wearing earplugs at concerts. This is followed by the writer’s personal example of hanging earplugs around their neck, but only wearing them if standing near the speakers.

There is noise damage risk whether you stand by a speaker or not, because loud sound waves fill the venue.

Earplugs are not necklaces.

They must be in the ears to seal out sound waves like swim goggles seal out water.

I have tinnitus. I use pre-molded high fidelity musician’s type earplugs or higher reduction foam earplugs, depending on the concert. Before pandemic shutdowns, I went to concerts at larger stadiums or halls as well as smaller venues at local clubs. I even saw my favorite metal band.

I start

2009, 2021

Human noise is overwhelming the seas’ natural soundscape

September 20th, 2021|

Photo credit: Claudiu Dobre licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in Discover reports on a search to find quiet places in the world’s oceans. Marine animals, from the least developed to apex species like dolphins and whales, use vibration and sound to find food, avoid predators, and to communicate with each other, including finding a mate.

Absent anthropogenic sound, the oceans are not silent but are filled with animal clicks, grunts, squeals, even songs. Unfortunately noise pollution threatens those dwelling in the ocean just as it threatens those living on land because they can’t hear normally when ambient noise increases.

When aircraft pass overhead and especially when boats using motors pass through the waters–from the smallest outboard to the largest tanker–the noise can literally be deafening for animals living in the seas.

The new information in the article is about a partnership of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Project and Oceans Initiative that will provide scientists around the world with microphones to map ocean soundscapes.

Quieter oceans may be key to survival of endangered groups of marine mammals.

As one of the researchers noted, “Silence is golden. We

1709, 2021

Football teams adapt again to noisy crowds

September 17th, 2021|

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I’ve written in the past about noise in stadiums and arenas where college and professional sports are played because they are invariably too noisy. The world record for stadium noise, according to Guinness, was set at a professional football game in Kansas City in 2014 at 142.2 A-weighted decibels.*

That’s louder than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s maximum permissible noise exposure level, which is “only” 140 dBA.

That’s loud enough to cause instantaneous ear damage, with disruption of the delicate inner ear microstructures needed to hear.

During the COVID lockdowns last year, football teams got used to playing in empty stadiums in relative quiet, with coaches able to shout instructions from the sidelines and players able to communicate with each other on the field.

As this report in the Seattle Times notes, those days are over.

Go team!!! Quietly.

*Decibels are a unit of sound measurement. A-weighting adjusts unweighted sound measurements for the frequencies heard in human speech.

1609, 2021

New York City addresses environmental justice

September 16th, 2021|

Photo credit: Zichuan Han from Pexels

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

I attended the virtual town hall meeting on August 18th that the New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability held in conjunction with the city’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board to address environmental issues within the context of social justice. New York City had been mandated by law to create the board to assure that the city would include environmental justice in its planning decisions. There were several presentations at this town hall meeting.

The Advisory Board had identified sixteen environmental issues such as green spaces, waste management, and air quality to focus on, and some of the issues were discussed by the participants at this August 18th meeting. After the presentations, participants were then asked to comment on how the city was addressing these environmental issues in their communities. With noise as one of the sixteen issues of concern, it was surprising that it had not been mentioned by the presenters. This omission was pointed out on the chat page by members of the Advisory Board who attended the meeting.

Tanya Bonner, who chairs WaHi-Inwood Task Force spoke

1509, 2021

How to prevent hearing loss while flying

September 15th, 2021|

Photo credit: Sourav Mishra from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article by Travel Awaits discusses tips on preventing hearing loss while flying. It’s a little biased towards the Widex hearing aid brand, but still contains some useful information.

As the article notes, airplane cabins are noisy. I have measured sound pressure levels between 90-100 decibels, especially during takeoff. In general, seats in front of the wings are quieter, but not much.

As Travel Awaits notes, earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones help make flying more comfortable and also protect one’s ears.

As the world tries to come out of the COVID-induced lockdowns and travel starts up again, it’s a good idea to protect your hearing.

Because if something sounds loud, it’s too loud and your auditory health is at risk.

1409, 2021

Speaker systems on motorcyles are a bad idea

September 14th, 2021|

Photo credit: Sourav Mishra from Pexels

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist

Boss Magazine has unfortunately shared how to add speaker systems to motorcycles. The idea is to set “a whole different mood” by playing music loud enough to hear over the loud exhaust pipes. There are likely a number of reasons why this is a bad idea, but I’ll stick to noise.

Motorcycle sound levels alone are considered a noise risk to auditory health, even without considering road and wind noise while riding. Some motorcycles are quieter. Federally approved exhausts have been required for decades, and other models also meet stricter European noise standards. But the rider’s auditory health risk will obviously be greater if they add speaker systems to play loud music.

What bothers me most is the imposed secondhand music. In my neighborhood, people riding by on motorcycles are already setting a different mood by playing their music through handlebar mounted speaker systems. I don’t want to hear their loud audio while I’m trying to enjoy my yard or talk to a neighbor.

It’s frustrating because there are bluetooth speaker systems that can be used inside motorcycle helmets. This includes motorcycle hearing protection that is bluetooth compatible. The rider

1309, 2021

Iceland fined for making too much noise

September 13th, 2021|

Photo credit: Kjetil Ree licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

When you read the headline, you probably reacted as I did. How could noise made in Iceland, in the far reaches of the North Atlantic, be heard in its nearest neighbors?

No, silly, not Iceland the country, Iceland a UK grocery chain. The Iceland store in Colchester, England was allowing delivery drivers to pick up orders outside authorized times.

Iceland did not contest the fine. As a municipal official noted, “[h]ouses and neighbors were there before the store came.”

Imagine if all cities and towns handled noise complaints and enforced existing noise ordinances in their jurisdictions.

The world would be a quieter and better place.

309, 2021

3-year olds should not be using headphones

September 3rd, 2021|

Photo credit: Alper Tecer licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist

Would you buy headphones so a 3-year old could start personal listening? A Swedish company released news to Cision PR Newswire that it is selling “safe” 85 dB limit headphones for ages 3-to-15 years old. But these headphones won’t protect the younger generation from noise-induced hearing damage as claimed.

Noise science is clear. Occupational exposure over time at 85 decibels (dB) puts 8% of adults at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Risk is likely greater for children and teens with more delicate immature ears. Even a 70 dB non-occupational noise exposure, based on average adult susceptibility, may not be low enough to protect hearing health in the young. Particularly for sound energy delivered directly to the ears by headphones or earbuds.

Thanks to the Quiet Coalition, the UK Advertising Standards Authority found that based on noise science, Amazon ads for safe children’s 85 dB limit headphones were misleading and irresponsible. The ads violated the Committees of Advertising Practice code. I think this “safe headphone” news is misleading and irresponsible for the same reasons. We don’t know what

209, 2021

Teaching children to protect their hearing

September 2nd, 2021|

Photo credit: Max Fischer from Pexels

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

With the World Health Organization announcing that “over one billion young adults are at risk of permanent hearing loss due to unsafe hearing practices,” it is essential that young people be educated on how to prevent hearing loss. To that end, a pilot educational project called Hearing Education and Research (HEAR) was developed by several audiology students under the mentorship of Dr. Shruti Balvalli Deshpande of St. John’s University. The project consists of interactive videos which can be readily accessed online. In addition to topics focused on the effects of noise exposure on hearing, the project added topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic which included “infection control in the hearing context and non-noisy recreational resources.”

To determine the effectiveness of her program, Dr. Deshpande assessed how a group of students between the ages of 10 and 12 viewed their behavior with respect to hearing health before the presentation of the program. She then worked with teachers to introduce the HEAR program to a comparable group of students and then after the HEAR program was introduced to them, she took

109, 2021

More on the link between dementia and hearing loss

September 1st, 2021|

Photo credit: Kindel Media from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

On The Conversation, Thomas Littlejohns, an epidemiologist at Oxford, discusses his recent scientific publication about the link between hearing loss and dementia. This relationship is not new. The most common test for hearing loss is standard pure-tone threshold audiometry, but in his study Prof. Littlejohns used speech-in-noise testing to measure speech understanding. Speech in noise (SIN) hearing impairment is a very common problem, when people have difficulty following one conversation among many in a noise environment, but audiometry shows no significant hearing loss. This is called “hidden hearing loss” because it is not found on standard pure tone audiometry but the auditory damage is detected by more sensitive clinical measures.

Prof. Littlejohns found that SIN difficulty had the same correlation with developing dementia that hearing loss documented by pure tone audiometry did. His research also provides added support for the hypothesis that loss of hearing and communication causes dementia, and not for the reverse hypothesis, that somehow dementia causes hearing loss.

This report provides yet more support for the simple and inexpensive advice to protect your hearing from loud noise.

If something sounds loud, it’s

3108, 2021

Montreal residents complain about aircraft noise after lockdown quiet

August 31st, 2021|

Photo credit: simplethrill licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated more articles about quiet and sound and, thus, it was not surprising to read this lengthy article published in the Montreal Gazette on this topic. Like Americans who live near large airports, Montreal residents living near Trudeau airport found a greater calm during the pandemic with fewer planes departing from this major airport. With ground traffic being less, as it was in major cities around the world during the pandemic, there was even more calm experienced by Montreal residents

Now people living in Montreal and nearby townships are complaining about sight-seeing helicopters flying over their homes. We have heard similar complaints from New Yorkers as well. Also, individuals who have experienced greater quiet with fewer planes leaving Trudeau airport and less highway traffic these past fifteen months are wondering how they will deal with the increased levels of noise. It appears that individuals have “gotten adapted to a slightly quieter environment,” according to Dr. David Kaiser, the doctor overseeing environmental health at Montreal’s Public health

3008, 2021

Alaska art exhibit meant to be heard, not seen

August 30th, 2021|

Photo credit: James Brooks licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I’m a doctor, not an art critic, but I was intrigued by this report in the Alaska Daily News about a new exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. As the article notes, museums are typically visual experiences, but this is an auditory art exhibit, “Listen Up: Northern Soundscapes.”

What’s a soundscape? The article states:

If a landscape is a wide view of a place — its layout, shapes, colors and features — a soundscape is the same idea, except that the “picture” is auditory, not visual. A soundscape is a collection of sounds heard in a specific place — the ambient noise that you might (or might not) notice while standing in that spot.

The article continues, reporting that “[t]he recordings in the museum’s database are being collected as part of an effort in soundscape ecology, which is used by scientists to understand what’s happening in an environment in ways that may not be visually observed.”

When I go for my morning walks, I see lots of joggers and walkers listening to their personal audio systems. I prefer to listen

2708, 2021

Canada’s loud cities need a governmental response

August 27th, 2021|

Photo credit: Harrison Haines from Pexels

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

That Canada’s large urban cities, e. g. Toronto, Vancouver, are noisy comes as no surprise to dwellers in urban centers around the world. The Editorial Board of The Globe and Mail does not believe there are coherent policies at the federal, provincial, and local government levels across Canada to appropriately address noise pollution. This is the same view held by the many people in the U.S. who have advocated for less noise pollution these past forty years. Readers of The Quiet Coalition blogs have read over and over again that greater effort is required at all levels of government in the U.S. to lessen noise pollution which has been clearly associated with adverse mental and physical health effects.

The noise sources identified in a Toronto Public Health report, e. g. outside auto traffic, airplanes and helicopters, construction sites, and loud sounds from bars and concert venues, are similar to the noise sources in the U.S. that people call in to a 311 number. The Globe and Mail Editorial Board also states that the ways to reduce noise are there

2608, 2021

Education as an integral part of noise regulatory enforcement


August 26th, 2021|

Image courtesy of the City of Red Deer

by Jeanine Botta, MPH, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Earlier this month, Arline Bronzaft wrote about Operation Quiet-Down, a program introduced by New London Police to address increasing noise complaints that followed the easing of the pandemic lockdown. With this program, police use the enforcement process as a chance to educate residents about the city’s noise code. It’s clear that NLPD is more interested in health and safety education than it is in issuing fines.

New London isn’t the only city in Connecticut to include health education in its strategy to address community noise. Eighty-six miles southeast of New London, another city that faces the Long Island Sound was experiencing higher noise levels. As COVID lockdown restrictions eased, Stamford nightlife returned with rooftop revelry and raucous indoor and outdoor parties–and noise complaints increased. In Stamford, law enforcement responded to noise complaints, but they took it a step further. City government created the Restaurant and Bar Task Force, made up of members of the Stamford Police Department, representatives from the Environmental Health and Inspections Department, and the Fire Marshal’s Office. The goal of the task force is

2508, 2021

Combination of silence and sound may preserve hearing

August 25th, 2021|

Photo credit: Arina Krasnikova from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from the University of Rochester Medical Center describes research showing that in a mouse model, a combination of silence and broadband sounds (containing sounds at many different frequencies) may help preserve hearing.

There are multiple steps over many years to translate animal research into anything relevant to humans, but we don’t need any more research to know that noise causes hearing loss. That has been known for centuries, with hearing loss reported in bellringers and stonemasons and blacksmiths in medieval times, and then in factory workers during the industrial revolution.

And since 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been investigating noise-induced hearing loss in the public, and trying to educate the public about the dangers of noise.

I presented a paper about the data showing that in everyday life Americans are exposed to noise sufficient to cause hearing loss at the June meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. This was just published with coauthor Jan Mayes in Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics.

The CDC tells us that noise-induced hearing loss is the only form of hearing loss that is entirely preventable.

Avoid exposure

2408, 2021

NYC Advisory Board supports legalized drinking in parks

August 24th, 2021|

Photo credit: Wendy Wei from Pexels

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

In early July of this year, Ariel Palitz, New York City’s Nightlife Director, suggested a pilot project that would permit bars, taverns and restaurants to stay open 24 hours. I wrote in an earlier blog that criteria should be set up to evaluate this pilot project plus citizens living in the communities selected for the project should be part of the group designing and evaluating this pilot project.

Now CBS NewYork reports that New York City’s Nightlife Advisory Board has suggested that our public parks “should allow drinking and impromptu dance parties at certain locations, with regulations.”

With noise already a major New York City complaint, I understand why Jay Reisberg, a resident already living with park noise stated that “[i]f you want to turn it into a disco, you’ve got a lot of people who live around here including me, who really don’t need to hear that at night.” In response, the Advisory Board acknowledged that the proposal may not work in every community. Mayor DeBlasio was cited as not believing that laws should change for drinking in public.

While

2308, 2021

Purple marks Disability Rights

August 23rd, 2021|

Image courtesy of #WeThe15

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

On August 19, more than 125 monuments around the world were bathed in purple light to recognize the worlds’ 1.2 billion people living with disabilities. This article from NPR states that at least 15% of the world’s population is living with a disability.

One wonders if those with hearing loss, an invisible disability listed in the Americans with Disabilities Act in the U.S., are included in this number. There are ADA protections for the congenitally deaf and those with profound hearing loss, but nothing protecting the disability rights of those with mild to moderate to severe hearing loss.

As I stated at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in New Orleans in December 2017, for those of us with hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis, ambient noise in public spaces, especially restaurants, is a disability rights issue.

Modifications in the built environment to help those with hearing loss will help everyone, the same way that modifications in the built environment to help those with mobility issues help everyone.

Curb cuts and wheelchair ramps and doors that open automatically when someone approaches don’t just help people in wheelchairs. They help delivery workers, parents

2008, 2021

Tinnitus associated with poor sleep and anxiety

August 20th, 2021|

Photo credit: cottonbro from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from the Netherlands, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, found an association between tinnitus and anxiety and poor sleep quality. The association did not quite reach statistical significance, but confirms what those of us with tinnitus already know. I was only able to read the abstract, so I can’t comment on the details of the study.

Tinnitus is formally defined as the perception of sound without an external sound source, but is commonly called “ringing in the ears.” There are many causes of tinnitus, such as head trauma, but noise exposure is the most common cause.

Sometimes a one-time exposure to loud noise can cause lifetime tinnitus. That’s what happened to me in 2007.

I wish I had known about the dangers of noise.

That’s why I became a noise activist, to try to make the world a quieter place and to try to help others avoid tinnitus.

Please remember: if it sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your auditory health is at risk.

Insert earplugs or leave the noisy environment before you, too, develop tinnitus.

1908, 2021

Remembering R. Murray Schafer

August 19th, 2021|

Photo credit: John Kannenberg licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

I was saddened to learn this week that R. Murray Schafer, the eminent Canadian composer, writer, and acoustic ecologist had died. Having conducted research on the adverse effects of noise on children’s learning in the 1970s, which heightened my interest in how our surrounding environment impacted on our health and well-being, I was especially pleased to receive a copy of R. Murray Schafer’s now classic book “The Tuning of the World,” published in 1977.

R. Murray Schafer, a well-recognized composer and musician, turned his attention in this book to the pleasant and unpleasant sounds in our environment which he referred to as our “soundscape,” and he alerted his readers to how much our sonic environment affects our lives. Schafer urged his readers to take “soundwalks” so that they could connect with the wonderful sounds of nature. He hoped that these soundwalks would make us more aware of the harmful sounds in our surroundings, e. g., the roar of traffic and the pounding of jack hammers, so that we may

1808, 2021

Does progesterone protect ears from noise damage?

August 18th, 2021|

Photo credit: Marcus Aurelius from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Does the female hormone progesterone protect the ear from noise damage? It has long been known that females have better hearing than males, beginning in the second decade of life. This has always been ascribed to less participation in noisy hobbies such as hunting or playing the drums or using power tools, and in adult life to greater occupational noise exposure in males.

But maybe hormones play a role.

This report from the University of Iowa describes research being undertaken by Prof. Steven Green, in the biology department, to see if progesterone plays a role.

Whether males would be willing to take a female hormone to protect their hearing is another discussion for another time.

1708, 2021

You can enjoy music and protect your hearing

August 17th, 2021|

Photo credit: Karol D from Pexels

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist

I highly recommend the Summer 2021 Entertainment issue of Hearing Health. It includes a range of articles on noise damage to hearing and how to prevent it. Music risk is a focus from school band members to professional musicians.

But I admit I’m biased about this issue, because it includes my article on “The Danger in Headphones.” I wrote it from the perspective of an audiology parent. How did I teach my children about safer personal listening? What do I recommend to others? I prefer a proactive protective approach-including listening below 50% volume-because once hearing damage happens, it’s irreversible.

I’m happy to see the Hearing Health Summer issue report on the Hearing Health Foundation’s new public health campaign. It’s aimed at preventing hearing loss from noise among young people. The “Keep Listening” campaign has loads of online resources on how to keep listening safer, including videos and information about noise, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears or tinnitus.

Prevention is the key to protecting hearing from noise damage. I urge everyone to protect their hearing each and every time they’re exposed to harmful sound, by turning down

1608, 2021

Belgian city puts the brakes on noise vehicles

August 16th, 2021|

Photo credit: Viktor Mogilat from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The headline in The Guardian reads “Belgian city puts brakes on deafening drivers by enforcing noise limits,” but I think the brakes are being put on the vehicles.  In any event, Ghent, in the Flemish region of Belgium, was having a problem with vehicle noise, and it turned out that only a few vehicles were causing most of the problem.

As the article states:

The Flemish city introduced a new regulation last month allowing police to impound vehicles whose drivers were causing excessive noise, either by playing loud music – dubbed boom cars – aggressive driving, or tampering with engines and exhaust pipes to make their vehicles noisier. Under the new regulation, drivers who breach noise limits will have their vehicle impounded for at least 72 hours and must bear the cost of towing and storage. The law took effect last month and expires at the end of the year when its effectiveness will be evaluated.

So far, citizens are satisfied with the results.

The Dutch city of Rotterdam is facing similar problems, compounded by laws that require police to prove the noise violation by testing the car at

1308, 2021

The fight to preserve the last quiet places on Earth

August 13th, 2021|

Photo credit: Johannes Plenio from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report on CNN Travel discusses the efforts of Quiet Parks International to preserve the last remaining quiet places on the planet.

For a place to meet QPI’s’ selection criteria, there can’t be more than one audible sound from a human source every 15 minutes. Quiet urban parks have less stringent criteria, allowing for some transportation noise.

I disagree with QPI sound recordist Matt Mikkelson, who said, “[w]hen an airplane flies over and the grouse is trying to call, they’re competing for space on the frequency spectrum. The grouse and the airplane interrupt each other.”

I doubt that the grouse is interrupting the airplane, or even the passengers and crew on the airplane. But the airplanes noise definitely interferes with the male grouse’s mating call, made by beating its wings against the air, in the same frequency band as the jet’s engine noise.

That’s the problem with noise. It interrupts human activity and interferes with animals in their natural habitats.

Why is quiet important? As the article says, “This is having a troubling effect. In humans, noise pollution has been linked to cardiovascular disease, mental health problems and cognitive impairment

1208, 2021

New Florida law ends most anonymous complaints

August 12th, 2021|

Photo credit: Lauren Maurell licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Floridians who wished to file complaints against neighbors for having grass that’s too tall or a noisy party or a loud leaf blower could call in their complaints without providing their names. But on July 1, 2021, a change was made so that a complaint would now have to be accompanied by the name and address of the complainant. Some complaints that enforcement officers deem a potential threat to “public health, safety or welfare, or imminent destruction of habitat or sensitive resources” can be investigated without accompanying name or address, however.

Ana Ceballos, Miami Herald, writes that the change was made “as a way to stop spending taxpayer money to investigate ‘frivolous’ complaints filed by feuding neighbors.” The public official introducing this change stated that with enforcement resources being scarce, enforcement officers will be better able to “target and focus complaints on disputes that are legitimate.”

Other public officials, however, are concerned the new law might discourage people from reporting issues that should be investigated. State Representative Joe Geller saw the law as an “unwise preemption,” in

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