Familiarisation with and acceptance of odour may increase health effect risk

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, October 2018, Volume 1, #27

Hmmmm! This room is so smelly! This is the usual reaction or impression upon entering the indoor environment with unacceptable odour. Such perceived odour dissatisfaction level is known to decrease with an increase in time spent in the same indoor environment, even with no intervention made to improve the air quality. Evidence in the literature suggests that this experience is due to the ability of the human olfactory system to adapt to odour. Does this adaption mean exposed occupants are safe? A research study on human exposures to ozone-initiated chemistry products suggests that exposed occupants may not be safe even if they perceive the air to be more acceptable. The study showed that building occupants’ health effects worsen with more time spent indoors while their acceptance of perceived odour level increases during the same period. Odour is created by chemical and biological pollutants in the air. Even if the odour is perceived to be acceptable, the danger posed by the pollutants does not diminish.

In this age of technology sophistication and rapid development, what can be done to make building occupants be aware of the concentrations of chemical and biological pollutants, causing the odour, they are exposed to? Technology that provides real-time clear definition and awareness of indoor air odour and pollutants causing it and potential sources of the pollutants will help to change building occupants’ behaviour towards improving indoor air quality. Such development will also help policymakers and built environment professionals to make the right decisions needed to provide a healthy indoor environment.

27_Odour adaptation_IAC 27

Do you want to know more about this topic? Read Fadeyi et al. (2015), Jacob et al. (2003), and Moncrieff (1956) papers.

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