Mystery Odors

Odors in a property can cause everything from a nuisance to health concerns for building occupants. These same odors can even lower property values. Common problematic odors in residential properties may include everything from smells due to cigarette smoke, cooking odors and cleaning supplies to pet odors or basic dirty conditions.

Other sources of unpleasant odors may be coming from mold, bacteria, sewer gases or off-gassing from building materials and household products (formaldehyde and other VOCs for example). In some circumstances these odors may be causing short or long term health concerns. Some off-gassing chemicals may even be known carcinogens. In the work environment, employee complaints are often the initial cause of odor investigations. In many work environments the use of various chemicals is common place. If not properly used or incorrectly stored these chemicals can cause significant odor issues.

These odors may be causing health concerns or lost productivity for the workers. If not properly handled by management these same odor concerns can sometimes turn into formal worker complaints, health and safety fines and even lawsuits. Whether in a home or an industrial setting at times the source of an odor may be readily apparent. Other times it may be a real mystery and could be due to a vapor intrusion problem or caused by odors infiltrating from an outdoor source. There can be literally hundreds of possible sources of odors in a typical structure.

When the source of mysterious odors cannot be identified, indoor air quality (IAQ) testing may be necessary. Qualified environmental and IAQ professionals know what to look for and how to test the air to identify the cause of problematic odors. Once the problem has been identified it is then possible to develop a strategy to eliminate the problem and protect people’s health.