Noise has been and always will be a contentious issue and it forms part of our everyday lives as noise is produced from whatever we do. Noise has the potential to create conflict between those who are generating the noise and the people who are receiving the noise. Noise pollution can be defined as unwanted or excessive sound which can result in harmful effects on human life, wildlife, or environmental quality (Berg et al, 2020). As South Africans, we have national legislation and municipal by-laws that protect us from noise pollution.

Most people living in South Africa are exposed to noise pollution in the form of traffic, aeroplanes and construction work just to name a few. There is a myth when it comes to noise that people can make noise until 22h00 on weekdays and 24h00 on a weekend. However, most municipalities focus on the decibels produced rather than the time when the noise occurred. Municipal by-laws are based primarily on disturbing noise which is objective and is defined as a scientifically measurable noise level which is compared to the existing ambient noise level.

The National Noise Control Regulations have given local authorities extensive powers to regulate noise. It is important to understand how noise is defined within the regulations. The Regulations define “noise disturbance” as follows: “any sound which disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person” and “disturbing noise” as “a noise level that exceeds the ambient sound level measured continuously at the same measuring point by 7 decibels or more.”

As citizens of South Africa, we have a few options when it comes to dealing with disturbing noise. The first option involves laying a complaint with your local authority by way of a written statement. Several local authorities have Noise Control Units that investigate noise complaints. If the noise persists there is another option to approach the courts for relief. An important aspect of these options is to acquire scientifically measured noise levels. A certified and calibrated sound level meter is required to provide accurate and reliable measurements. These noise levels are compared with the ambient noise level as well as the National Noise Regulations and municipal by-laws to determine whether the noise is above the allowable limits.

Environmental Assurance (Pty) Ltd. (ENVASS) offers a wide range of Environmental Monitoring and Specialist services, including Environmental Noise Monitoring, which can be utilised. If you may require a proposal for these services please do not hesitate to contact our highly qualified and experienced specialists at ENVASS on 012 460 9768 or

Berg, Richard E. and Nathanson, Jerry A.. “Noise pollution”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 3 Nov. 2020, Accessed 19 February 2021.

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