Follow Your Nose... to the Pollutants

It's not uncommon to hear of children or young adults aspiring to become lawyers, doctors or successful entrepreneurs. But "professional sniffers"? A dozen individuals with so-called "professional noses" will be assisting local authorities in South China in their fight against pollution by sniffing out noxious chemicals in the air.

The China Daily reported on Wednesday that a team employed by an environmental monitoring station in Guangzhou city will be using its own "scent-based" approach to detect gases released by chemical and rubber factories, rubbish dumps and sewers in the region. In fact, the team is set to receive official certificates that will allow them to do the job for three years.

Why such a short duration? Apparently their sense of smell will have diminished sufficiently by then to invalidate their contributions. These "professional sniffers" will also be using specialized equipment to measure the exact density of the gases. "Now we can differentiate between hundreds of smells that may make people ill, before making an assessment on their density," said Liu Jingcai, a member of the team. "Our equipment can accurately analyse the density of a particular gas but with mixed gases they are not reliable... and it cannot tell the effects on humans."

As you can imagine, the job definitely has its downsides: "The work is quite unpleasant. We have to stay in a lab smelling those awful gases repeatedly," said Liu. What remains unclear are the potential health effects that the sniffers could incur through their exposure to various harmful pollutants. Though the report fails to address this issue, it can be expected that these individuals will suffer some type of health repercussion in the future, if not in the short-term.

Image Courtesy of TIME Magazine

Via ::Human Noses to Sniff out China's Pollutants

See also: ::Ask TreeHugger: Airplanes and Personal Air Cleaners, ::Bluegill Fish Enlisted in the Fight Against Terror Attacks, ::Pollution that Glows, ::Snooping on Nature with High-Tech Gadgets

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