THE SCENT-VOID

smelling-1A friend called me yesterday and talked – interestingly enough – of the absence of smell; he had been to America and noticed that both the hired car and the hotel-room were entirely devoid of smell, the non-odor environment, he called it.

A few years back I was involved in a scientific group in Sweden. It was called GustOlf and was created by a group of scientists and other people involved in the art and science of taste and smell.  I was invited as an aromatherapist. The scientists came from different universities and were all experts in their fields; biology, chemistry and physics. There was also a chef representing a restaurateur institute and an art-professor. A most interesting group. We had a few conferences where we would discuss taste & smell for a couple of days; from pheromones and insects through the make-up of an odorous molecule to the digestive system and emotional impact of scent. I was a frequent speaker at these occasions since I work with the emotional reaction to scent. What we all agreed on was this:

The sense of smell is completely subjective and different for each individual

The most ardent group of participants were from the automotive industry, all with the same question: “How do I make a car smell attractive?”

Scented trees

Smells are smells; some are nice and some not. The problem with “scenting away” an odor is that it usually gets even worse; perfumed deodorant on strong sweat?…well, you get the picture. So how do we avoid smells? (following is taken from Wikipedia)

Air fresheners are consumer products that mitigate unpleasant odors in indoor spaces. They can be in the form of candles, aerosol sprays, potpourri, gels and mechanical or heat release products. [1]

They work in one of five ways:

  1. Masking: Many “fresheners” obscure odors with a fragrance.
  2. Adsorption: Adsorbents like activated charcoal or silica gel may be used to absorb offending, chemical odors.
  3. Chemical neutralization: Substances such as rubber or TEG may be used for some odors.
  4. Disinfection. Odors caused by bacterial activity can be eliminated by disinfectants like ozone, TEG, or bleaching agents containing hydrogen peroxide, chlorine or hypochlorites.
  5. Anesthetization: Some air fresheners use anesthetics to dull the sense of smell.

A Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study of 13 common household air fresheners found that most of the surveyed products contain chemicals that can aggravate asthma and affect reproductive development. The NRDC called for more rigorous supervision of the manufacturers and their products, which are widely assumed to be safe:

“The study assessed scented sprays, gels, and plug-in air fresheners. Independent lab testing confirmed the presence of phthalates, or hormone-disrupting chemicals that may pose a particular health risk to babies and young children, in 12 of the 14 products—including those marked ‘all natural.’ None of the products had these chemicals listed on their labels.” (wikipedia)

It doesn’t paint a pretty picture, does it?

Air-Freshener-Spray

What is an odor? An odor is a molecule; some agents, such as ozone, function by severing the bonds in the molecule. Odors can arise from most anything, many odors are caused by bacteria and fungi. At one point we need to accept that odors are part of life, messages about our surroundings. It is better to smell the smoke and realize that something is burning, than to suddenly find yourself in a burning inferno…?

An alternative is to use essential oils….more about that in my next post… Stay tuned.

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2 responses to “THE SCENT-VOID

  1. Great post, I read this a while ago and, since then . I was wondering… can I translate your post into portuguese – with link to your original post, of course?

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