In order to effectively undertake odor control and elimination, you must understand what constitutes odor. You also need to understand how a human being perceives odors. Accurate information about understanding what constitutes odor is imperative. In the age of the ubiquitous internet, there is some information about what makes up odors and how we perceive them. Unfortunately, there is also a considerable amount of “information” on this topic floating around in cyberspace. 

Scientific Definition of Odor

A typical person justifiably doesn’t have a technical understanding of what is an odor. They experience odors – good and bad – but they don’t know biologically why they experience odors. 

The reality is the science behind odors is highly complex, as will be discussed throughout this presentation. A fundamental fact about odors is that they are gases that are recognized by what is known as the olfactory lobe. The olfactory lobe is that part of a person’s brain that recognizes and identifies odors. 

These gases are comprised of molecules. There are pleasant and unpleasant odors. There is an element of subjectivity to what are pleasant and unpleasant odors. With that said, there are some odors so foul that there exists near unanimity that they are unpleasant. For example, odors associated with the human decomposition process are universally deemed horrible. 

The process through which odors are perceived by humans begins when molecules come into contact with the olfactory nerve endings located in a person’s nasal cavities. From this initial point of contact results in the odor being transmitted to the olfactory lobe in a person’s brain. 

Conditions That Must Exist for a Human to Detect Odor

Human beings are only capable of detecting odor only if certain conditions exist. You need to have a full appreciation of these conditions in order to fully understand the dynamics of odor. 

In order for a substance to convey an odor, it must be what scientifically is know as volatile. In the case of odor, volatile means that a substance is capable of easy evaporation at normal temperatures. A normal temperature oftentimes is also referred to room temperature. A pleasant example is a plate of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. The still liquified chips release the welcome odor into the air. Unfortunately, there is a myriad of unpleasant and even horrendous odors that can necessitate the professional assistance of an odor cleaning company.

An odor molecule itself must be water-soluble. Water solubility is a simple concept. It means that an odor molecule must be capable of dissolving in water. Solubility can be minute, but it must exist. Solubility is necessary so that an odor molecule interacts with wet mucus membranes in a person’s nose. Through this interaction, a person’s nerve endings are activated which causes the brain to respond to the odor. If a molecule is not soluble, this interaction cannot occur and no odor can be perceived. 

In addition, for a molecule to generate an odor, it has to be soluble in fatty substances. This is necessary because all cells have a fatty substance known as the lipid layer. 

As a matter of routine, a particular odor molecule must be absent from a person’s nasal tissues. If a particular type of odor molecule regularly is present in an individual’s nasal tissues, a person can become acclimated to it. In other words, a person cannot detect a particular odor because he or she has become accustomed to it. 

Impact of Psychological Odor

When it comes to understanding what constitutes odor, a discussion also needs to be had of what is known as psychological odor. This phenomenon is also known as heightened awareness odor. 

Because of the phenomenon of psychological odor, a person might perceive an odor that doesn’t technically exist. In addition, it is also possible that a person impacted by psychological odor may perceive certain odors differently than others. For example, it is possible that such an individual might not react to an odor others believe is foul as being unpleasant. 

The Nature of Odor and Odor Remediation

When it comes to odor control and elimination, also known as odor remediation, in the grand scheme of thing there is only one real way to identify an odor that must be eliminated. This includes identifying the location of the source of an odor. (Bear in mind, an odor cannot be eradicated in most cases without physically eliminating the underlying source of the odor itself.) The human nose is the primary odor detector when it comes to initiating the process of odor control and elimination.

Finally, because of the nature of odors, including the impact of psychological odor, calling in a professional to address odor control and elimination is a wise course. Not only does a professional have the experience, tools, and resources to remediate an odor, a pro also has an edge when it comes to detecting the source of an odor in the first instance. 

Author

Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services such as biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, infectious disease disinfection and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.