Testing for bad odours goes hi-tech
While odour emissions have been regulated in some countries, odour emissions and perception are subjective.
In addition, legislation and regulation of outdoor odours is complex and investigation equally challenging.
The traditional method of odour emission detection has been the simple ‘sniff' method or FIDOL (frequency, intensity, duration, offensiveness and location). Although still using real people, sensory panels are now able to provide accurate and repeatable data to set acceptable legal compliance thresholds.
At the forefront of managing odours are chemical engineers who use a range of abatement technologies to reduce emissions, including: biofiltration; chemical scrubbing; activated carbon filters; and reagents and masking.
Peter Badham, research and development manager at Air Spectrum Environmental, says: “The management of odour has never been easy for one simple reason – people have different abilities and tolerance thresholds to smells.
“Variations also occur continent to continent. Odours from steroids like androstenone – which are found in both male and female sweat and urine – are less likely to be detected in the UK and Europe than in the US.
“However, outdoor odour management has become more sophisticated and chemical engineers now have a range of solutions to protect communities and the environment from unacceptable levels of emissions.
“Improvements in data processing mean that computer models are able to accurately predict the odour footprint on communities using robust meteorological data..
“Although it is virtually impossible to eradicate all industrial-scale smells, odours like hydrogen sulphide are likely to become less common in future years.”