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Elements of Successful Odor/Odour Laws

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The search for the perfect “odor (odour, the international English spelling) regulation” most likely began a few thousand years ago in a community that smelled something annoying. That search continues today in societies throughout the world. However, different societies have inherently different levels of acceptance for odors in their communities.

Ambient air holds a mixture of chemicals from the everyday activities of industrial and commercial enterprises that make up modern day society. Exposure to those chemicals in the ambient air has become a part of modern day life. However, from time to time, citizens find the odors of these chemicals annoying and objectionable and at some point may declare them a nuisance.

Community odors remain one of the top air pollution complaints to regulators and government bodies. An odor nuisance usually is a result of a series of odor episodes experienced by a citizen or citizens. The frequency of these episodes, the duration of each odor episode, the intensity of the odors, and the character or offensiveness of the odors all contribute to the nuisance experience.

From state to state, in communities across the United States, and in other countries odor issues are addressed by a variety of “odor laws”, whether they are called an ordinance, rule, regulation, or policy. An “odor law” is effective if, and only if; the odor law uses a criterion or criteria to define compliance. The “odor laws” address community odor issues in several well defined approaches that utilize “compliance determining criteria”: annoyance criteria (subjective categories and complaint criteria), ambient odor criteria (threshold or intensity), ambient odorant criteria (mass concentration, i.e. milligram per cubic meter, mg/m3), episode duration-frequency criteria, source emission criteria (threshold or mass concentration), and best available control technology criteria (i.e. industry standard). The various approaches are not mutually exclusive and are sometimes combined in one “odor law”.

Underlying the “approaches” to odor laws are the basic elements that have been placed into successful regulations of air pollutants other than odors. However, these elements must be adapted and formulated for an “odor law”. Programs to educate and infrastructure to guide and administer the “odor law” are needed to support the community, whether it is state, county, or local jurisdiction.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2000

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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