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A Nasal Chemosensory Performance Test for Odor Inspectors

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Odors are the cause for most air pollution complaints by citizens. Common sources of community odors include the following types of facilities: wastewater treatment, composting, landfills and industry.

In communities across the country, odor issues are addressed in a variety of ways. Often odor regulations and ordinances place a limit on the strength of ambient odors. The strength of an odor in the ambient air is measurable using either a butanol intensity scale or a “scentometer” device. However, the odor inspector's olfactory sensitivity is a factor in measuring the odor strength in the ambient air.

“Sniffin’ Sticks” is a commercially available test of nasal chemosensory performance based on pen-like odor dispensing devices. A modified version of the standard “Sniffin' Sticks” odor threshold test was developed and administered to 39 Odor Inspectors of a Regulation Enforcement Agency. The Odor Inspectors were assessed approximately once a month during the months of January to October, where the majority of individuals were tested eight times. A measure of central tendency and variation was calculated for each of the Regional Agency Offices (n=6). Also, the test was administered to 39 Trained Odor Assessors of an Odor Evaluation Laboratory. The Assessors were tested twice during a single month. It was found that the mean individual score from the Odor Inspector group was 7.33 (s2=1.47). The mean individual score from the Odor Assessor group was 9.45 (s2=1.17). A z-test of the comparison of population means (α=0.05) showed that the mean group scores were statistically significant, thus the two sample populations could not have been drawn from the same statistical population.

The purpose of a standardized nasal chemosensory test method is to determine the olfactory threshold of an individual or a group and compare this olfactory sensitivity data with other published normative values. This paper presents the findings from an initial test cycle in an ongoing study that will establish a reliable method for olfactory screening, provide olfactory threshold data for odor inspectors and assessors, and generated recommended performance criteria for odor inspectors, assessors and monitors.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-01-01

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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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