Public Lab Research note

Smells that Kill: How to Identify Odours

by kgradow1 | October 31, 2020 13:38 31 Oct 13:38 | #24882 | #24882

Adapted from SDCEA's Toxic City Booklet and generously shared with permission by Bongani Mthembu and Desmond D'Sa, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance

Type Source Cause Effects
ROTTEN EGGS Hydrogen Sulphide Refineries / Crude Oil vapor Cough, Nausea, Headaches
BURNED MATCHES Sulphur Dioxide Processing / Burning Crude Oil Asthma, High Sensitivity
CADAC GAS LPG, Butane, Propylene, Propane Gas Storage depots / Refineries Drowsiness, Asphyxia
CAT URINE Ammonia Fertiliser, Cleaning Agents Drying out, lightheadedness
BLEACH Chlorine Water treatment, bleaching agent Skin irritation, headaches
PETROL Petrol fumes Storage depots / Petrol users Cancer
SWEET ALMONDS Benzene Industrial solvent, part of petrol Vomiting, sleepiness
GLUE Toluene Paint & Resin manufacturing, part of petrol/solvent Intoxication
CARAMEL/ SUGAR Cane by-products Sugar Cane Processing
PUNGENT ACID Polystyrene Packaging, insulation manufacturing Fatigue, Depression
ALCOHOL Ethanol Fuel refining / medical industry Light-headedness, intoxication
ROTTEN CABBAGE Methanol Fuel refining / antifreeze agent Respiratory failure, blindness
VINEGAR Acetic Acid Chemical product manufacturing Digestive damage, skin irritation
HUSKY/SUFFOCATING Chromium / Formaldehyde Chrome manufacture Eye irritation, Lethargy

Compiled by: Reshantha Moodley Reviewed by: Professor Rajen Naidoo Data collection: Conner Vasu

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) is an organisation that campaigns for environmental justice and sustainable development in South Durban and the broader Durban municipal area. SDCEA was launched in 1995 to unite members in a common struggle for a healthy living environment and for environmentally sustainable and socially responsible development in south Durban. SDCEA has been both unique and tenacious in challenging government and industry to address the inequities of pollution and unsustainable development in the area and simultaneously raising public awareness about environmental justice.

To learn more about their work, visit

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@duwamishcleanup check this out!

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Awesome resource!

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@CherokeeConcernedCitizens this might be a helpful resource for your interest in air quality/VOC monitoring

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