It is widely recognised that air pollution due to human activity in populated areas and in the vicinity of isolated sources has become one of the significant environmental health problems of our time.
Improvements in the quality of the air we breathe have been achieved and are being achieved all the time particularly in respect of those pollutants either proven or suspected of causing physical environmental harm, especially to people.
Thus the dreadful smogs of pre-1952 have been eliminated and the emission of noxious and offensive gases limited.
Higher environmental standards have to some extent highlighted the problem of offensive odours.
Offensive odours which emanate from domestic or industrial premises can cause serious annoyance to persons in the locality, and inevitably give rise to public concern and spreading as they do in some cases over a wide area.
Maggot farm odours and to mention but one source, have been known to spread over several miles and affect up to 20,000 people.
One of the reasons for increasing public concern about odours is because industry of all types, from animal husbandry to chemical plants has had to become more concentrated because of”economies of scale”, and the chemical industry in particular has also extended its range of manufactured chemicals.
The effect of such changes is to concentrate the emission from such industries, per unit area, and as Dr. B. Leadbeater, a leading chemist in the field of odour pollution explained the effect of the amount of emission can be examined in the light of atmospheric dispersion theory in which the downwind concentration is a direct function of the emission rate.
Consequently double the emission rate and unacceptable concentrations of odour pollutant will persist for double the distance downwind, and, providing the population density remains constant, four times as many people will be subjected to the odour.
Information compiled by the author from a survey of 100 local authority environmental health departments in England, illustrates the public’s concern.
Every local authority which responded to the survey, 65 in all, had received complaints about offensive odours in their areas. Definition of an odour
An “odour” is simply what we can smell just as sound is what we can hear and touch is what we can feel. In short it is a “sensation”.
“Any further search for a definition would be axiomatic” suggests Moncrieff, and this does seem to be true and the Third Karolinska Institute Symposium on Environmental Health, defining an odour as “The product of the activation of the sense of smell, an olfactory experience”.
There are many thousands of odours arising from a multitude of sources which can be variously described, by those persons with a sense of smell, as pleasant, unpleasant, feeble, faint and strong, bland, pungent and rancid etc.
Not everyone subjected to a particular odour will however describe it in the same manner.
People react in different ways to odours, for example most people would probably describe rural odours or odour from a brewery, perfumery, or fish and chip shop as pleasant, but not all and some would find them unpleasant, pungent even, especially after being subjected to them for any length of time.

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 12:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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