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Can you feel that smell? Complexity of Odour Surveys

Published on by Dr Paul Beckett

Odour survey tool

Odour survey measurement device (model’s own)

We all carry out odour surveys in our day to day lives, to assess the character and strength of the rich cocktail of odours that often surrounds us. Our sense of smell also has a deep connection with our memory. But the value of expert advice on odour should not be underestimated.
We know instinctively that cold air smells different to warm air, even at the same location. It seems logical that this is largely a result of changes in the character of whatever it is that we smell. A warm environment also makes more odorous molecules available in our “breathing zone” for us to sniff in. Thirdly, the human nose is better suited to working in a warm environment, as the odour receptors in the nose become more efficient.
In addition to the above factors, the “feel” of the air, as detected by the trigeminal nerve adds an extra component to odours, and is thought to be particularly important when cold air is breathed in.
These examples of how our experiences of odour vary according to the prevailing conditions are just a taste of the complexities of odour assessment. Phlorum has extensive experience of dealing with odour complaints and has undertaken cooking odour surveys for a number of major national restaurant chains.
In contrast to monitoring other air pollutants (like PM10 or NO2) there are thousands of analysers (i.e. your noses) being used all the time on our streets. Unfortunately different people’s responses to odour vary greatly. At Phlorum, not only do we have a fantastic understanding of the current odour guidance, but our experts have had their noses calibrated adding a huge amount of weight to the odour surveys that we undertake for restaurants, waste, sewerage and other sites.
For further information, please contact us.

About the author: Dr Paul Beckett

Dr Paul Beckett - picture

Dr Paul Beckett is one of the UK’s leading experts in Japanese knotweed and is a member of the Expert Witness Institute. He regularly provides Japanese knotweed expert witness services. He helped produce the RICS knotweed guidance for surveyors and was integral in the formation of the Property Care Association (PCA) Invasive Weed Control Group (IWCG).

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