Are Bad Odours Bad For Your Health?

How Does Smells Work?

When you notice an odour, that tells you that you are exposed to something in the air that triggered your sense of smell.  We can smell things because molecules of a particular substance travel into our nose. These odor molecules come into contact with a tissue called the olfactory epithelium. This contains olfactory receptor cells that lock onto these odor molecules. Electrical signals are then generated that relay to clusters of nerve cells called glomeruli. Specialized nerve cells called mitral cells send these signals to parts of the brain that will combine these signals so we can recognize the smell, or question what it is.

Smell does not usually contain bacteria. Bacteria carry disease and are much larger than the gaseous molecules that make up a smell. Smelling an odour doesn’t tell how much exposure you have. It also doesn’t tell you whether or not what you are smelling will cause health effects. Some gaseous compounds can cause shortness of breath, headaches, eye irritation, or, if large amounts are inhaled, even death. If an odour lasts a long time or keeps occurring, it also could affect mood, anxiety and stress level.

Do people differ in how they notice odours?
Yes. At low levels, some people will notice the smell while others won’t notice anything. At higher levels, most people will notice the smell. Factors that affect a person’s sense of smell include age, sex and whether or not they smoke.

People also react to smells in different ways. An odour that one person thinks is pleasant may be unpleasant to someone else. People that are exposed to the same odour for a long time may no longer notice it after a while, even if it is unpleasant.

Can odours affect out health?
Chemicals that trigger odours may cause health effects. In most cases, people notice a smell well below the level in air that would cause health effects. Also, people are not equally sensitive to chemicals and may not be affected by them in the same way. Health symptoms from odour exposures generally go away quickly when the odours stop.

Odours can often be used to tell whether there is a problem that needs to be fixed. For example , mold, sewage backups and gas leaks can all be detected by their smell, even if they can’t be seen.

Where do odours come from?
Odour producing products and activities are a common part of our lives and affect outdoor and indoor air quality. Outdoor smells may be produced by chemicals, sewage treatment or food processing plants. In rural communities, you may smell composting, manure and sludge. Indoors, activities such as cooking or cleaning produce odours. Personal care products are often scented, such as candles, soaps and air fresheners.

What can I do if I have a problem with outdoor odours?
When outdoor odours are noticeable, close your windows to keep them out of your home. Of course, if the smell outside is bad enough to force you indoors, that probably means better controls are needed at the source. If the problem continues you can call the local health department and ask advice.

What can I do if I have a problem with odours indoors?
Try to find the source if you have unpleasant indoor smells. These smells might be caused by cleaning products, paints, or solvents that should be stored outside or discarded. Check for problems with garbage or pest infestations. Check for moisture problems that could lead to mold growth. The best way to control indoor odours is to find the source and remove it. Until the source of the smell is removed, open windows and use fans. This will increase fresh air ventilation in the home.


Sources of information:–can-smells-harm-you.html


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