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Perfume researchers lend their noses to design less odorous latrines

Date:
May 27, 2015
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
About 2.5 billion people worldwide don't have access to sanitary toilets. Latrines are an option for many of those people, but these facilities' overwhelming odors can deter users, who then defecate outdoors instead. To improve this situation, fragrance scientists paired experts' noses and analytical instruments to determine the odor profiles of latrines with the aim of countering the offensive stench.
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About 2.5 billion people worldwide don't have access to sanitary toilets. Latrines are an option for many of those people, but these facilities' overwhelming odors can deter users, who then defecate outdoors instead. To improve this situation, fragrance scientists paired experts' noses and analytical instruments to determine the odor profiles of latrines with the aim of countering the offensive stench. Their report appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Poor sanitation, including open defecation, is a major public health issue in many low-income regions. If not contained within a functioning sanitation system, fecal matter can run off into nearby rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water. This in turn can cause health conditions such as childhood diarrhea, which can lead to death in places with inadequate care. Encouraging use of latrines could go a long way toward reducing the risk of illness, but these facilities can be smelly. So, Christian Starkenmann and colleagues at the "fragrance and flavor house" Firmenich brought their scent expertise to bear on the problem.

The scientists figured out an accurate way to identify and quantify the odor-causing compounds present in latrines' "headspace," the air enclosed in these structures. In facilities in India, Kenya and South Africa, the compounds their instruments identified as the most concentrated were responsible for the dominant odors, which the scientists verified by smelling. They say understanding these sensory profiles is critical to countering the odor of sanitation systems and making them more welcoming.


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Materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Charles Jean-François Chappuis, Yvan Niclass, Christine Vuilleumier, Christian Starkenmann. Quantitative Headspace Analysis of Selected Odorants from Latrines in Africa and India. Environmental Science & Technology, 2015; 49 (10): 6134 DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b00692

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American Chemical Society. "Perfume researchers lend their noses to design less odorous latrines." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 May 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150527112958.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2015, May 27). Perfume researchers lend their noses to design less odorous latrines. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150527112958.htm
American Chemical Society. "Perfume researchers lend their noses to design less odorous latrines." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150527112958.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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