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What to Do if You Smell an Odor

Odors are also commonly called scents, which can refer to both pleasant and unpleasant odors. Odors can be masked, keep in mind that freshening the air is only a temporary solution that can actually make matters worse. Studies show that use of air fresheners in the workplace can trigger asthma and allergies, along with other breathing problems and result in an even more offensive odor than before.

Determine the Cause of the Odor

Check your area. What does it smell like?- chemical solvents, flue gas, sewer gas, rotten eggs, mold, plastic, food, cigarette smoke, cleaning chemicals, other. Next try to determine the source of the odor. Biological sources of odors can be caused by water leakage and problems in the ventilation system. Is there visible mold or a “musty” odor in a specific location? Is there condensation in or near the odor area, such as on windows or on other cool surfaces? Are the exhaust fans in bathrooms working?

Write down the history of the odor. When was the odor first noticed? What date? How long has it been observed? Who first observed it? Does the first occurrence of a smell relate to an event, change, or modification in the building? If so, what exactly changed in the building? The more information you have, the more likely you will be able to determine the source of the odor.

Steps to Control Odors

Odors can be caused by dry pipe traps in bathrooms and laboratories. Running water in sinks each morning can help eliminate odors. It may also be necessary to pour water down floor drains.

If the odor persists  and you cannot determine the source, contact the Environmental Health and Safety Office (312-996-7233)(6-SAFE) on a campus phone) and we will respond and monitor the area to try to determine the source of the odor. EHSO may also work with Facilities to address any ventilation problems.

If you are experiencing any symptoms related to the odor such as dizziness or headaches, contact University Health Services, 835 South Wolcott Avenue, Room E-144, Chicago, IL 60612, Phone: 312-996-7420.