Professional noses sniff out pollutants in China

Got a sensitive schnoz? Your services may be needed in southern China, where air-pollution experts at an environmental monitoring station are training the sharp-nosed to sniff out chemicals in the air. “We have honed our smelling skills from various sources of pollution. It will help in the detection efforts of our bureau, and, hopefully, bring more pollution violators to justice,” says olfactory expert Liu Jingcai. Eleven professional noses are already on the job, reaping the benefits of being able to differentiate between the hundreds of different smells that emanate from chemical plants, rubber factories, garbage dumps, and sewers. Can you say bragging rights? But there is a downside: “The work is quite unpleasant. We have to stay in a lab smelling those awful gases repeatedly,” says Liu. The job also doesn’t come with a lot of security, as sense of smell diminishes with age. And then there’s the whole breathing-in-potentially-poisonous-gases factor. But did we mention the bragging rights?