The impact of malodour on communities: A review of assessment techniques

J. E. Hayes, R. J. Stevenson, R. M. Stuetz*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    102 Citations (Scopus)


    Malodours remain the biggest source of complaints regarding environmental issues. This factor is likely to increase, as the urban development steadily encroaches into areas that have malodourous emitting industries (such as wastewater and waste management operations and intensive livestock practices), and has the potential to be both time and fiscally expensive. Despite the enormous amount of research involved in odour detection and abatement, as well as the creation of several distinct methodologies, there has yet been no definitive procedure to evaluate odour impact on communities, as well as community response. This paper is a review of the current methods that explore this problem, as well as a précis of this research field's goals and challenges. The first aim of this review is to illustrate the dichotomy between regulatory-established procedures, such as panellist testing, and methods that are centred around producing a more comprehensive explanation of factors that influence an odour's impact on a community or individual. In that regard, we have addressed several predominant paradigms of inquiry for this field: analytical methods, panellist testing, qualitative research, and survey methods, with associated variants. Secondly, the challenges of measuring and monitoring community impact are discussed. While the quantification of odorants is crucial to appreciating impact, individual-based modifiers of perception have an enormous scope for which to shape the effect of those odours. Perceptual differences are also likely the most dominant variables that influence the elicited behaviour of individuals who have experienced malodour exposure. •This review covers aspects from both analytical odour sampling as well as a community assessment paradigms.•The dose-response relationship is discussed as a complex system that has varying degrees of influence dependent upon the olfactory quality assessed.•Combined approaches are discussed and are found to be advantageous compared to single type methodologies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)395-407
    Number of pages13
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


    • Community
    • Dose-response
    • Odour measurement
    • Sensory analysis
    • Survey


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