Today, on my way to work, I could not only see but also smell the thick autumn-fog in the air!
So, clearly, I pay a lot of attention to the olfactory sense, not only mine, but to the way it works in general in human beings. What's the purpose of our sense of smell? As urban human beings how do we use our nose in daily life? Do we even realize that it smells around us? And if we do not realize the odors around us, do they still influence us?
These are general questions driving scientists in many different fields of olfactory research. In my current work I focus on the relationship between olfaction and health, investigating both if odors have the potency to make us sick, or if on the other hand odors can contribute to keeping us healthy.
Doctoral Degree in Medical Sciences, Work Environment Toxicology, Karolinska Institutet, 2012
Do odors make us sick?
It is known that living in damp buildings make people sick!
Airway diseases like asthma increase in residents of moist homes and although nobody knows the reason for that, authorities including the world health organization (WHO) recommend immediate renovation for which large amounts of money are spent each year.
Today, there seems to be only one thing that we know for sure about damp buildings and that is, that they develop a moldy smell. In our research project, we will investigate the relationship between such annoying smell and the development of health impairment in sensitive residents.
To do so, we introduce chloranisoles as model substances since they combine three important characteristics
- Chloranisoles reliably indicates presence of moisture,
- Human beings smell chloranisoles in extremely low concentrations,
- The moldy smell of chloranisole is potent to evoke health worries in residents.
We believe that the bad smell of a damp building is an important and often ignored mediator for the observed health effects in sensitive residents. Better understanding of the relationship between odors and health may help to develop alternative remedies for the increasing and cost-intensive damp-building problematic.