Know Your Rights

Regulating odour pollution is not straight forward - one of the reasons is the complexity of reliably measuring odour levels. In contrast to other air pollutants, odorants can be difficult to detect as they are usually present in the air in very low concentrations.

Even if every odorant could be detected, this would not tell us the whole story, as some odorants are perceived as more pungent or unpleasant than others. Therefore, in the case of odour regulation, sensorial measures are required to find out the odour strength perceived by individuals rather than simply measuring the concentration of odorants present. This makes the job of regulating odour impact more complex than other environmental issues.


How To Complain

There isn’t a general rule or procedure to follow that applies for all cases or countries.

Below we’ve provided a list of the different options that are possible for complaining:

  • If you know the source of the odour, contact the company responsible as a first approach, preferably in writing so that you have proof of your communication.
  • Go to your town hall and present the same letter.
  • Contact your regional environmental administration.
  • Contact your national environmental administration.
  • Contact your regional Ombudsman (in case you have one), your National Ombudsman and/or the European Ombudsman.

  • Usually, these actions have no associated financial cost.
    There are other steps that you might also consider that involve some costs; these typically involve a legal action. Lawsuits can be civil or penal, but the procedures to be followed as well as the probability of success of such actions, strongly depend on the specific legislation in force, and thus is different in any Country. Also, the extent of the associated costs may be highly variable case by case.



    Depending on where in the world you are, different regulations relating to odour will apply. The map above shows which regulations apply to which country or region. Regulations can be applied at a local, regional, national or international level. You can navigate around the map using your mouse and zoom in to look for specific regulations or use the free text search box on the left and type in the region you are interested in. If you are aware of any regulation that is not already on the map, you can add your own information by clicking on the ‘Add contribution’ button.

    Regulating odours

    Across the world, countries rely on different types of frameworks or legal documents to regulate odour emissions which may cause nuisances. Not all countries will issue regulations, however, they might rely on the use of standards or issue guidelines.

    • Regulations
    • Rules published in an official journal made by a government or other authority which compliance is mandatory. This includes laws, decrees, ordinances, etc. In some cases, a guideline is published in an official journal, in this case, this guideline becomes a regulation.

    • Standard
    • Technical document issued by any international Standardisation body (ISO, CEN, CENELEC, ASTM, AIEE, etc) or National ones. They are not published in official journals and they are usually for sale on the websites of these organisations.

    • Guideline
    • Technical report, technical guidance, technical guide, etc made by other organisations, such as government bodies, associations, technical groups, etc or even the same ones aforementioned, but that have a different status.

    The situation in Europe

    A few countries have implemented regulations to tackle odour impact meaning free release of odour is no longer permitted, for example for industrial activities in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and France. However, this has not led to the drawing up of a clear, Europe-wide framework legislation on odour impact in the way it exists for example for noise. The Directive 2002/49/EC relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise requires Member States to prepare and publish, every 5 years, noise maps and noise management action plans.

    There is no European Environmental Directive for odour levels in ambient air. This is a serious issue that affects not only the European Citizens who have to deal with odour annoyance in their environment but also the European Industries, who need a clear framework to develop and manage their activities.

    In March 2017, academics from Poland sent a petition to the European Parliament, signed by a wide group of odour experts from across Europe. In February 2018, the Commission replied that they do "not intend to propose any additional specific requirements regulating odour nuisances"

    Unfortunately, odours in Europe continue to be outside of the planning procedures except in some countries.

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