Noise pollution

Sound is a natural part of our surroundings, but when sounds become unwanted and loud, they can turn into noise pollution.

Noise pollution is any form of sound that disrupts a natural ecosystem or causes a person’s property to become unusable or unpleasant.

Noise pollution may have negative impacts on human health, including:

  • loss of sleep
  • increased stress levels
  • hearing loss, in severe cases

Reporting noise pollution

If your quality of life is being impacted by noise pollution, record observations and keep a description of the noise, including:

  • Time of day: When is the noise most noticeable? Morning, afternoon or evening?
  • Frequency: How often and for how long do you hear the noise?
  • Intensity: On a scale of 1 (weak) to 5 (intense), how intense is the sound?
  • Source: Where is the noise coming from?
  • Impact: How does the noise affect you?
  • Tones: Does the noise contain a distinct pitch, buzz or hum?

Some municipalities recommend a second or third-party witness to verify your complaint and to provide additional evidence relating to the noise.

Who to contact

If you believe the noise is coming from a nearby home, construction site or business, contact your local municipal office.

If the noise is coming from an industrial source or renewable energy project, contact your local Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change office.

If the noise is from an explosion or a disaster, report it to the Spills Action Centre (SAC) by calling:

Provincially regulated noises

To cut down on noise pollution, we regulate noise from industrial and renewable energy sources.

Industrial sources include:

  • heavy machinery or equipment
  • ventilation equipment
  • heating, ventilation and air condition systems (HVAC)
  • compressors
  • dust collectors
  • onsite truck traffic
  • refrigeration trucks

Renewable energy sources include:

  • wind turbines
  • solar farms
  • bioenergy projects

To learn more about how we regulate noises and noise pollution, read the Environmental Noise Guideline and the Compliance protocol for wind turbine noise.

Provincial noise guidelines

Sound that causes or may cause an adverse effect is defined as a contaminant and requires an Environmental Compliance Approval as established in section 9 of the Environmental Protection Act.

We have guidelines for the proper control of sources of noise emissions to the environment and prevention of potential adverse effects.

The guidelines include noise limits for different situations, including:

  • indoor and outdoor
  • daytime and night time
  • urban, semi-urban and rural zones

Noises are considered to be at an acceptable level if they are between 40 and 60 decibels, or match the ambient background noise – whichever is higher. Any sound above acceptable levels is generally considered noise pollution.

Here are examples of typical noises and their decibel levels:

Faint to moderate sounds

  • 20 decibels – watch ticking
  • 30 decibels – whispering
  • 40 decibels – refrigerator
  • 50 decibels – moderate rainfall
  • 60 decibels – dishwasher

Loud sounds

  • 70 decibels – city traffic
  • 80 decibels – noisy restaurant

Very loud sounds

  • 90 decibels – lawn mower
  • 100 decibels – chainsaw
  • 110 decibels – car horn
  • 120 decibels – rock concert
  • 130 decibels – jet engine 100 feet away
  • 140 decibels – shotgun blast

Municipal noise bylaws

Municipalities can prohibit noise that is likely to disturb the peace, rest and quiet living spaces of residents. Municipalities have the authority to create and enforce bylaws that control or prevent noise disturbances.

Some common types of noise that can be controlled by municipal bylaw enforcement officers include:

  • construction during prohibited times
  • loud residential machinery (for example, residential air conditioners)
  • disturbances caused by businesses (for example, entertainment establishments)

We do not have jurisdiction over municipal bylaws. However, if a municipal bylaw conflicts with guidance provided by the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), the EPA guidance prevails.

Municipalities may refer to our noise guidelines and the Model Municipal Noise Control By-Law documents for assistance in drafting noise bylaws.

Noise compliance

Facilities that emit noise must obtain a provincial Environmental Compliance Approval or Renewable Energy Approval (if the facility is a renewable energy project). This document helps us determine if a facility is operating in compliance with noise requirements.

Facilities not subject to Environmental Compliance Approval or Renewable Energy Approval are either registered on the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s Environmental Activity and Sector Registry or exempted from provincial approval as per Ontario Regulation 524/98.

We can issue orders requiring a facility or operation to take steps to reduce noise if it is not in compliance. These steps are often prescribed by a noise expert (e.g. an acoustical consultant). Further action may be necessary based on the severity and extent of the noise.

Noise encountered in the workplace is regulated by the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

Disclaimer

This information is a summary and not to be taken as direction or legal advice. Please refer to Ontario’s environmental noise guideline (Publication NPC-300) or Section 9 of the Environmental Protection Act for more information.

Updated: July 29, 2021
Published: February 20, 2018