Qualitative Exploration of the ‘Rolling Unmasking Effect’ for Downwind Odor Dispersion from a Model Animal Source

Wright, Donald W.
Parker, David B.
Iwasinska, Anna
Hartman, Thomas G.
Kolvig, Paula
Wahe, Landon
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Solving environmental odor issues can be confounded by many analytical, technological, and socioeconomic factors. Considerable know-how and technologies can fail to properly identify odorants responsible for the downwind nuisance odor and, thereby, focus on odor mitigation strategies. We propose enabling solutions to environmental odor issues utilizing troubleshooting techniques developed for the food, beverage, and consumer products industries. Our research has shown that the odorant impact-priority ranking process can be definable and relatively simple. The initial challenge is the prioritization of environmental odor character from the perspective of the impacted citizenry downwind. In this research, we utilize a natural model from the animal world to illustrate the rolling unmasking effect (RUE) and discuss it more systematically in the context of the proposed environmental odorant prioritization process. Regardless of the size and reach of an odor source, a simplification of odor character and composition typically develops with increasing dilution downwind. An extreme odor simplification-upon-dilution was demonstrated for the prehensile-tailed porcupine (P.T. porcupine); its downwind odor frontal boundary was dominated by a pair of extremely potent character-defining odorants: (1) ‘onion’/‘body odor’ and (2) ‘onion’/‘grilled’ odorants. In contrast with the outer-boundary simplicity, the near-source assessment presented considerable compositional complexity and composite odor character difference. The ultimate significance of the proposed RUE approach is the illustration of naturally occurring phenomena that explain why some environmental odors and their sources can be challenging to identify and mitigate using an analytical-only approach (focused on compound identities and concentrations). These approaches rarely move beyond comprehensive lists of volatile compounds emitted by the source. The novelty proposed herein lies in identification of those few compounds responsible for the downwind odor impacts and requiring mitigation focus.
odor, volatile organic compounds, environmental analysis, air sampling, simultaneous chemical and sensory analysis, prairie verbena, prehensile-tailed porcupine, Virginia pepperweed