ATSDRs Environmental Odors Website

Posted on by Blog Administrator


Environmental odors are substances in the environment that can be smelled. These type of concerns are common. Some petitions that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) receives involve an odor concern. Frequently asked questions are “Will the odor make me sick?” and “Are all environmental odors toxic?”

Environmental odors in communities can come from many sources.

  • Animal activities may contribute to odors from confined feeding operations and manure;
  • Human activities can contribute to odors through compost and landfills;
  • Vehicles can cause odors through diesel and exhaust fumes;
  • Nature can contribute to odors with fires and stagnant ponds; and
  • Industries can create odors during manufacturing, processing, waste treatment, and unplanned releases.

ATSDR works to protect and improve the health and environment of communities and to help communities understand the relationship between environmental exposures in the environment and their impact on human health.

ATSDR’s recent innovative approach in addressing environmental odor concerns is the launch of its “Environmental Odors Website. A search tool on the home page helps users identify a particular odor or chemical simply by typing in information about the odor, such as a description of its smell.

Search Odors


In the “Getting Involved” section, the website includes interactive PowerPoint presentations that contain easy-to-understand information on exposure, odor controls, odor diaries, symptoms related to odor, and other related issues. The website also offers the first in a series of nine videos addressing environmental odors.

Before this site was created, no comprehensive electronic source or website existed that covered and provided resources for environmental odor issues. ATSDR collaborated with the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a comprehensive site on this topic. The site provides communities, health care providers, policy makers, health officials, and other stakeholders with actionable steps to deal with environmental odors in their communities.

The environmental odors website addresses common questions about environmental odors and their effects on health and offers additional information about odors, including

  • Approaches for reducing environmental odors in communities,
  • Steps for reporting environmental odor problems to state and local health departments,
  • Methods for conducting odor complaint investigations.
  • Ways for involving community members and other stakeholders in odor management decisions, and
  • Regulatory approaches to odor and compliance and enforcement tools for communities and officials who seek long-term solutions to odor issues.

Future versions of the website will offer a new search tool containing typical odor-onset levels (odor thresholds), occupational limits, minimal risk levels, target organs, chemical uses, and industries commonly associated with certain chemicals. Also, information will be available on existing state and local regulations regarding odors.

Issues surrounding environmental odors are multifaceted and can be difficult to address. ATSDR’s website seeks to ease those challenges by providing information and ideas for addressing odors.

For more information, please visit

Posted on by Blog Administrator

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Page last reviewed: October 16, 2015
Page last updated: October 16, 2015