- Odour is a kind of pollution, and there are laws about managing it
- Odour can harm our health and the environment
- Businesses that don't reduce or prevent odour can face fines and criminal charges
What EPA does about odour
- Gives guidance to businesses about managing odour
- Responds to people's reports about odour that comes from industry and large facilities
- Works with councils and government departments to consider odour in planning decisions
When to go somewhere else
- Report odours from neighbours and small business to your local council
- Report odours from sewers to the relevant water company
How to report odour to EPA
You can report odours from industry and large facilities to EPA. We can only do something about it after one of our Environmental Protection Officers has checked the odour and confirmed where it's coming from.
- your details, including your name and address (or you can report anonymously if you prefer)
- when you first smelled the odour
- where you smelled it
- how strong or weak it is
- how long it lasted
- if you have smelled it before
- how the smell in affecting you
- a descriptor of the odour - our odour list can help you do this.
The more reports we get about an odour, the more likely it is that we can do something about it.
Why odour matters
Odour pollution does not usually cause long-term health problems. But odours can give people headaches or nausea and make them vomit.
If you feel unwell because of an odour, contact your doctor immediately.
The more frequent, intense, long-lasting or offensive an odour gets, the more impact there is on the community.
Odour pollution can also harm ecosystems.
Where odour comes from
Odour is a mixture of gases in the air that we can smell. Odours can be pleasant or unpleasant smells. Human activities, like landfills and industry, cause most odours.
Odour usually comes from:
- chemical industries
- rendering plants and meatworks
- sewerage treatment
Odours can also come from:
- animal farms and facilities
- coal-fired power stations
- coffee roasters
- poor treatment of sewage
- food processing plants
- paper mills
- waste treatment
The law and odour
The law says that the risk of harm from odour that is offensive to the senses of human beings must be reduced as far as reasonably practicable. The point of this law is to have air free of offensive odours.
Odour is a key environmental issue in the Environmental Protection Act 2017 (the Act) and is defined as a form of pollution. Odour is also included in the environmental reference standard (ERS) under section 93 of the Act.
Businesses must make sure that any odour from their activities or premises doesn't impact the local community.
As a business, you are also responsible for odour made by any contractors or tradespeople you hire.
You should use a risk control process to identify and manage odours hazards and risks from your business. You will then need to put controls in place. These will depend on the type of business.
EPA has detailed guidance for managing odour. This guidance is for businesses, planners, assessors and government.
Reviewed 10 November 2023