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Archive for June, 2008

Odor Investigations

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Odor InvestigationsNuisance odors are a complex and subjective issue, often resulting in odor complaints directed at industrial or agricultural facilities such as wastewater treatment plants, landfills, large scale composting facilities, or animal feed operations. At these types of facilities, most odorous chemical compounds are produced under anaerobic conditions. Contrary to popular belief, nuisance odors themselves do not generally cause long term illness or any direct health effect.  In other words, if the source of the odor is taken away, any associated illness symptoms (e.g. nausea) will also go away. Therefore, unlike investigations centered on human health risk, investigations involving nuisance odor are governed by the perception of the receptor. A person’s perception of odor is related to the human olfactory system, which can vary widely from person to person; what smells bad to one person might not have an odor at all to someone else. To further confuse the issue, there is a distinct lack of odor regulations, and those that exist are extremely vague. The EPA defaults to the state level for nuisance odors, and most states defer to the county or local level.

Odor is a parameter which may be measured unto itself, following established ASTM and/or European Standards. This approach will quantify how odorous a sample is, ranking it on a relative scale with units of dilution to threshold (D/T).