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Odor Investigations

Row of houses near a factory building.

Here, we've gathered a useful collection of facts, guides, and information for government agencies and industries. This includes information on how to

  • conduct an odor complaint investigation,
  • identify a nuisance odor,
  • determine typical odor onset levels (thresholds).

Odor Complaint Investigations

Two professionals in a factory setting

Odor complaints are typically handled at the county or local level. It is easier to investigate complaints if you use a systematic approach. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality provides an example of a systematic approach in its odor complaint investigation procedures. This approach not only provides suggestions on gathering information, but also offers a method to characterize the odor offensiveness using frequency, duration, and intensity of the odor.

Odor Onset Levels (Thresholds)

The odor detection threshold is the lowest concentration that humans can smell.

The odor recognition threshold is the concentration at which you can identify an odor.

At a given concentration, one person may smell and recognize the odor, while another person may barely notice it. Individuals may also respond differently to the same odor. Since methods to define and determine odor onset levels (thresholds) vary greatly, many substances have a wide range of reported odor onset levels (thresholds).

Coming later in 2015! Odor Thresholds and Health-Based Exposure Levels, Symptoms, and Health Effects (where available)


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Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
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