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Scents and airborne chemical substances

The experience of a smell occurs when an odour meets the sensory cells of the olfactory nerve. The sensory cells refer the signal to the brain, which perceives and processes the signals from the scent.

All scents – also from natural sources such as essential oils or flowers – are the result of airborne chemical substances. Non-scented airborne chemical substances also exist.

Also bothered by non-scented chemicals
Persons with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) describe feeling disturbed by common airborne chemicals in their environment.

 

Several studies have shown that chemically sensitive persons do not have a better olfactory sense than other people.

What evokes the symptoms?
Chemically sensitive persons often describe their symptoms as being evoked when exposed to common airborne chemicals such as:

  • Perfume and fragranced products for personal hygiene
  • Perfumed detergents and softeners
  • Cleaning agents
  • Freshly printed papers and photocopies
  • Freshly painted surfaces
  • New leather garments or leather furniture
  • New furniture
  • New electronic equipment
  • Photocopy machines and printers
  • Exhaust fumes
  • Smoke from tobacco or wood-burning stoves
  • Tar and oil products
  • Soft plastic or rubber
  • ‘Air fresheners’
  • Flowers
  • Odours from some foods

Scents can be disturbing for everybody
It is important to note that the experience of certain smells can also provoke a number of unpleasant experiences in people who do not have MCS.

Inhalation of common airborne chemicals can also exacerbate asthma and other respiratory diseases,for example.

The Danish Research Centre for Chemical Sensitivities | Ledreborg Allé 40, 2 | DK-2820 Gentofte | Phone + 45 39 77 73 04 | Last updated 23.10.12 | Contact web editor
The Research Centre is funded by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency and is a part of the Department of Dermato-Allergology at Copenhagen University Hospital, Gentofte