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ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
AIR POLLUTANTS, COMMON INDOOR
AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES
BOOK MOLD, Moldy Book Cleaning
CAR MOLD CONTAMINATION
CAT DANDER in buildings
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CHEMICAL ODOR SOURCES
CHLORINE IN DRINKING WATER
COMBUSTION GASES & PARTICLE HAZARDS
DIRT FLOOR MOLD CONTAMINATION
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
EMERGENCY RESPONSE, IAQ, GAS, MOLD
Fireplaces & Woodstove Contaminants
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
GASES, EXPOSURE, TESTING
GAS DETECTION INSTRUMENTS
GAS EXPOSURE LIMITS & STANDARDS
GLUES ADHESIVES, EXTERIOR CONSTRUCTION
HEATING OIL EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
INDOOR AIR HAZARDS TABLE
INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
GAS LP & NATURAL GAS SAFETY HAZARDS
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MILDEW in BUILDINGS ?
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
MOTHS, MOTHBALL ODORS
MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL, HEATING, EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
OIL HEAT ODORS & NOISES
OIL TANK LEAK & ODOR CAUSES
OIL ODOR SOURCES
OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
OZONE for MOLD OR ODORS
PET ALLERGENS / PET DANDER
PET STAINS & MARKS in BUILDINGS
PET STAINS on WALLS
SEPTIC SYSTEM ODORS
SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS
STAINS on & in BUILDINGS, CAUSES & CURES
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
THERMAL IMAGING MOLD SCANS
UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION, UFFI
URETHANE FOAM Deterioration, Outgassing
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO
VINYL Siding or Window PLASTIC ODORS
VOCs VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS
WATER TEST CHOICES & WATER TEST FEES
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
These articles explain how to diagnose, test, identify, and cure or remove a wide range of obnoxious or even toxic odors in buildings, in building air, in building materials, or in the building water supply. We discuss odors from a variety of sources including animals including pets, dogs, cats, or unwanted animals or dead animals, formaldehyde odors in buildings from building products or furnishings, plumbing drains, plastic or vinyl odors from building products, flue gases, indoor mold odors, oil tanks or oil spills, pesticides, septic odors, sewer gases, and even abandoned chemicals at properties.
Our page top photo shows our local skunk rummaging on a nearby golf course. This is about as close as you want to be, especially if you see a skunk meandfering in daylight. This skunk was found dead two days after this photo was taken, most likely due to rabies. .
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At left the author demonstrates a smell-patch test that can be used to track down odors to their source in buildings.
You can start tracking down the cause or source of an odor in one or more of several ways:
Checklist of Places to Look & Things to Do to Track Down an Odor to it Source
Here are some possible sources of an odor or smell in building air, water, mechanical systems, heating, cooling, or other locations.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about tracking down and curing odors in buildings
Question: Sweet / Fume type smell in a two story house
For the past three weeks my father has had a sweet/fume type smell in his two story house. The odor is concentrated in his bedroom. Professionals have come out to clean the air vent/ducts, the carpet cleaned, home inspector etc. and have not been able to determine the source of the odor. He has open all the windows, run the heat any and everything suggested nothing has worked. He has had to throw furniture, bedding etc. away because of the odor. The odor has gotten so bad he is unable to live in the house.
The service people who have been to the house have no clue and also aren't able to direct us how to determine what the problem is and how to fix it. Environmental companies said they need to know specifically what they are testing for such as mold etc. There is no construction going on in the area. He is at his wits end. He lives in Houston, TX. Any assistance anyone can provide would be greatly appreciated. - T. Wilson 8/7/11
Reply: distinguish between sweet fumes and mold odors
Please see Six Steps in an Organized Approach to Finding & Curing an Indoor Chemical Odor below in this FAQ section.
Question: musty odor through interior partition wall, worse in damp or rainy weather; high VOCs at kitchen drain; possible sewer gas odors
I have a musty odour coming from the wall that separates my kitchen and living room which worsens when it is damp, rainy, there is no heat on or the AC unit is running. An environmental inspector did an AQ test for mold from the electrical outlet on the living room side, where the odour was quite strong but the results showed very low concentrations of mold spores compared to outside. T
he inspector also used a PPB Rae to measure volatile organic compounds at the kitchen drain which showed extremely elevated levels of VOC's between 35000 to 83000 ppb when initially operating the water. The numbers dropped significantly after the water had been running. The conclusion of the inspector was that plumbing is likely to need repair in the wall cavity and potentially the main trap at the entrance to the building.
Would a camera inspection be able to show if there is a problem in the wall cavity or should the wall be opened up? I have concerns about the latter because of the possibility of contamination from whatever is causing the musty odour. I have smelled sewer gas on at least two occasions, first under the kitchen sink and the second time in the electrical outlet on the living room side. Thanks! - Denise 1/13/12
Recently my neighbor has done some extreme excavating, removing two home and making a parking lot. I have at times noticed an extremely awful smell in my basement(rotten sauerkraut), I think it is sewer gases, but how do i check. City sewer line I am the next to last home on the line. I have had severs head aces nausea, not all the time,I don't have much money for a lot of testing, who do I call? - Beth firstname.lastname@example.org 4/10/12
Watch out: Beth, since you are describing possible damage to and potentially dangerous (explosive) leaks from a public sewer, you should call your city building department promptly to describe the odor, and construction, and worry about what might be a dangerous sewer gas leak.
Denise, running HVAC equipment, fans, or even changes in how windows or doors are open or shut, or changes in indoor or outdoor temperature and similar conditions or changes all affect how air moves in buildings. In cases of enough negative pressure indoors (rising air currents, running exhaust or whole house fans, for example), these can cause backdrafting out of building drains - a condition that is made worse if drains are not properly vented or if the vents are blocked.
I'm not sure what sense it makes to measure VOCs at a building sink drain. I have never measured a sink or tub drain in a building that had seen use that did not cause the instrument to respond - the contents of traps are often a bit smelly on close inspection. On the other hand, dry traps, or traps that are siphoned dry during plumbing system use, or defective or blocked building vent piping can be a serious, even dangerous source of sewer gases. Some odors traced to building walls were in fact traced to openings in a vent piping system in the wall.
Question: dirt floor smells over possible outhouse location
We live on a farm it has a double garage open front dirt floor. on the back is a small area which i think was a old drop hole toilet witch is filled in and open to shed . when you walk past or go in shed there is a very strong smell of sewage . what can be put on the dirt to get rid of smell thanks - Bernie 2/25/12
Reply: use an impermeable membrane below the soil to reduce odors in a shed over an old outhouse pit
Bernie, indeed the soil where an outhouse previously stood can continue to hold concentrations of waste for years because of the concentration of sewage with comparatively low water content, deep in the soil where there is a lack of aerobic bacteria, and probably because often lime was added to control odors, also preserving the waste from bacterial action. Usually, where the soil is open to the air outdoors it's not a source of complaints if it was buried with several feet or more of clean fill.
But in a shed or enclosure odors from gases passing out of the soil may indeed be a problem. I would not try treating the dirt itself with any chemical or deodorant - not only will it probably not work, it may simply be a new contaminant. You might find success by removing a top layer of soil, installing an impermeable membrane (rubber EPDM roofing would work, or a plastic intended for soil burial such as sold by geotextile and foundation waterproofing manufacturers), and burying that layer again with soil.
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