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You smell more than you see

Published on by Dr Paul Beckett

Odour assessment

Odour Assessment

Surprisingly little is known about how the nose and the brain work together to process odours. Whilst it has long been known that many animals, such as dogs, are able to smell much fainter odours than humans, researchers have recently discovered that human noses can actually distinguish between a much greater number of odours than previously thought.
For some time, textbooks and other scientific literature have quoted a figure of approximately 10,000 odours. However, using psychophysical testing, Bushdid et. al.have shown that humans can in fact discriminate at least 1 trillion olfactory stimuli. This shows that our noses are far more sensitive, in terms of discriminatory power, than even our eyes.
Whilst it is too early to say where this research will lead, it could have wide reaching implications for future studies in other areas. For example, consideration of odour is likely to become even more important in environmental impact assessment, in the design of new food products, and in understanding the workings of the human brain.
At Phlorum we have recently had the sensitivity of our noses tested to ensure that they are within the normal range. This adds weight to our odour assessments, ensuring that our survey results can be relied upon for planning purposes. We have experience of undertaking odour surveys for both new developments and complaints issues, including sites adjacent to restaurants, municipal waste processing plants and sewage works.
Please contact us for more information on our odour and other environmental services.

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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