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'Professional noses' sniff out polluters in China

An environmental monitoring station in southern China is recruiting people with keen noses to sniff out foul gases in the atmosphere and provide more accurate readings of air quality.
/ Source: Reuters

An environmental monitoring station in southern China is recruiting people with keen noses to sniff out foul gases in the atmosphere and provide more accurate readings of air quality.

A team of 11 "professional noses" at a monitoring station in Panyu, an industrial town in the Pearl River delta in Gaungdong province, had been trained by air pollution experts, Wednesday's China Daily quoted a senior official at the station as saying.

"Now we can differentiate between hundreds of smells that may make people ill, before making an assessment on their density," vice-director Liu Jingcai said.

"The work is quite unpleasant. We have to stay in a lab smelling those awful gases repeatedly," he added.

Liu said the team would complement the station's scientific equipment with the aim of helping bring pollution violators — including chemical producers and rubbish processing sites — to account.

But long-term career prospects were hazy.

The professional noses' accreditation would need to be renewed every three years, "as one's sense of smell diminishes with age", the paper said.

And it was not clear what impact, if any, the gases would have on the inspectors.