Sniff Testing

My job occasionally involves something a bit different. Last week I was having an odour acuity assessment, or if you prefer, a ‘sniff test’, to determine my sense of smell. I was having my nose calibrated. In a clinical room, a very small amount of n-butanol is released into one of two funnels (see photo below), at a known concentration, and you have to say which funnel the smell was coming from.


If you get the first two attempts correct, then in the next round a smaller concentration is released. This continues for ten rounds until your nose is calibrated, to determine how sensitive your nose is.

Most people can detect n-butanol at a concentration between 20-80 parts per billion. My score was 8ppb, so either I have a very sensitive nose, or the machine wasn’t working correctly that day.

With this information, I can perform a ‘sniff test’ out in the field. If a developer wants to build a whole load of houses next to a sewage treatment works, someone has to go there and have a good sniff around the place. The results would then be used in context with my calibration results. This all adds to another string to my bow.

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