Sniffing out harmful gases

By Jonathan Yeung (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-20 06:52

GUANGZHOU: For years there have been professional noses in the perfume industry, today they are also being employed in environmental protection.

The environment monitoring station of Panyu will soon employ people with sensitive noses to sniff out foul gases in the atmosphere, and with the aid of scientific equipment, give a more accurate reading of air quality.

"Foul gases have already become one of our major pollutants they are unleashed by the chemical, rubber, and oil refining industries, garbage processing sites and sewers. They cause damage to the human respiratory system," said the station's Vice-Director Liu Jingcai. "Our equipment can accurately analyze the density of a particular gas but with mixed gases they are not reliable and it cannot tell the effects on humans," Liu said.

Liu and his team of 11 professional noses, have received training from experts working in top laboratories dealing with environmental protection and air pollution control.

"Now we can differentiate between hundreds of smells that may make people ill, before making an assessment on their density," Liu said.

"We have honed are smelling skills from various sources of pollution. It will help in the detection efforts of our bureau, and hopefully, bring more pollution violators to justice."

"The work is quite unpleasant. We have to stay in a lab smelling those awful gases repeatedly," Liu said.

Liu and his team will soon be issued certificates allowing them to officially start their careers as professional noses.

The certificates will be valid for three years at a time, as one's sense of smell diminishes with age.

(China Daily 06/20/2007 page5)

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