Environmental Odors Web Site: Providing Communities and Health Officials with the Tools to Address Odor Issues

By Jackson, Diane; Rosales-Guevara, Lourdes "Luly" et al. | Journal of Environmental Health, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Environmental Odors Web Site: Providing Communities and Health Officials with the Tools to Address Odor Issues


Jackson, Diane, Rosales-Guevara, Lourdes "Luly", Blake, Robert, Journal of Environmental Health


Environmental odor concerns are commonly reported to environmental health units at the local and state levels. Many U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program sites (Superfund and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) and approximately 25% of Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) petition requests involve an odor concern component (e.g., industries, landfills, and confined animal feeding operations [CAFOs]). Increasing numbers of scientific studies are finding associations between environmental odors and health effects. Despite this need for information on environmental odors, no comprehensive electronic source or Web site existed that covered this topic and provided resources for the many parties that face environmental odor issues. Assessing the possible health impacts of odors is also complex. Even if the chemical or chemical mixture is identified, little to no regulations exist at the state and local levels. The lack of an effective odor response framework makes odor problems difficult to resolve.

In an effort to improve this situation, ATSDR collaborated with the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a comprehensive Web site that provides communities, health care providers, policy makers, health officials, municipalities, industries, and other stakeholders with actionable steps to deal with environmental odors in their communities.

Environmental odors can come from a variety of sources and affect communities across the nation. For example, animal activities may contribute to odors through manure or CAFOs; human activities can contribute to odors through compost and landfills; vehicles can cause odors through diesel and exhaust; natural odors can be found with fires and stagnant ponds; and industries may contribute to odors during manufacturing, processing, waste treatment, and unplanned releases. The ATSDR odors Web site, located at www.atsdr. cdc.gov/odors/, addresses common questions about environmental odors and their effects on health and offers additional information about odors, including the following:

* approaches for reducing environmental odors in communities,

* steps for reporting environmental odor problems to state and local health departments,

* methods for conducting odor complaint investigations, and

* ways for involving community members and other stakeholders in odor management decisions.

In addition, regulatory approaches to odor and compliance and enforcement tools are available for communities and officials who seek long-term solutions to odor issues. A search tool on the home page of the Web site (Figure 1) helps users identify a particular odor or chemical simply by typing in information about the odor, such as a description of its smell.

The Web site also contains interactive PowerPoint presentations (under the "Getting Involved" section in Figure 2) that contain easy-to-understand information on symptoms related to odor exposure, odor controls, odor diaries (used to document information about environmental odors), and other related issues. While this information may be useful to groups such as health care providers and community residents, the Web site also provides a collection of resources for government agencies, officials, and industries. For example, the "Odor Investigations" page contains information on how to conduct an odor complaint investigation and identify a nuisance odor.

In 2015, ATSDR plans to add a new search tool containing typical odor-onset levels (odor thresholds), occupational limits, minimal risk levels, target organs, chemical uses, and industries commonly associated with certain chemicals. Additionally, information will be available on existing state and local regulations regarding odors. …

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