Obnoxious OdoursOver the past few years, the number of complaints concerning nasty smells has increased.

The reason for this isn’t necessarily the fact that there are more bad smells in the air (although there possibly are), but also due to the fact that residential and trading areas are built in closer proximity to places like sewage treatment works and factories, coupled with a rise in people’s expectations of how their environment should be.

What Is An Obnoxious Odour?

An obnoxious odour is any smell which causes a persistent and lingering bad odour or due to its strength, begins to cause a nuisance. It does not necessarily have to be a smell which is traditionally thought of as ‘bad’, such as sewage, but may just as easily be something like a restaurant which is continually pumping out food smells, and which people in the immediate neighbourhood tire of.

Smell Is Subjective

Human beings are very sensitive to smell and have the ability to recognise over 10,000 different odours. However, one of the problems with determining when an odour becomes obnoxious is that smell is a subjective experience.

Everyone perceives an odour differently – so that no two people will smell exactly the same thing in the same way when detecting and evaluating a scent. Whether or not a particular smell disturbs someone will largely depend on how sensitive a sense of smell they have and to a certain extent, how tolerant they are.

In general though, when a smell is easily detected by most people and there is an agreement that it is disagreeable, it can be classified as being a nuisance.

Obnoxious Odours In The Home

Sometimes bad smells can develop within the house, but the worse thing you can do is either ignore it or cover it up by using an air freshener. If a smell is perceived as unpleasant, it is often nature’s way of telling us that something is wrong. Perhaps a food product has gone off, an animal has died or toxins are being given off which could be dangerous.

Your sense of smell is directional and your nose is well-designed to be able to track down the source of the bad odour. However, if you can’t find it, do seek help in doing so rather than allow the smell to linger or increase.

If the smell is only temporary and you know it will be limited (for instance if you have been cooking fish), then open the windows or place some bicarbonate of soda in container near the smell, which will help to eradicate the odour and neutralise the air.

Some smells, though, are harder to deal with and ones which cause the most distress are those which originate outside the home environment.

Common Obnoxious Odours

Odours that commonly cause problems include:

  • Sewage and drainage smells
  • Food smells from restaurants or factories
  • Smells from toiletry factories or breweries
  • Agricultural smells such as muck-spreading on fields
  • Chemical odours, such as solvents, from industrial premises

Odour Is Dispersed Easily

As smell is airborne, it is readily able to travel long distances and affect a lot of people. It can also be difficult to forecast which population it may affect most badly, as this could alter with the change of wind direction.

What Can Be Done About Obnoxious Odours?

If odours become a problem and you feel they are affecting your quality of life, then your local council will be able to help. They will help find the cause of the smell and assess what can be done about it.

For more detailed information, see our article on Bad Smells and the Law.