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American Industrial Hygiene Association journal

Smell of danger: an analysis of LP-gas odorization.


PMID 3887879

Abstract

LP-gas derives warning properties from the odorants ethyl mercaptan or thiophane. Laboratory tests have implied that the average person has the ability to smell the odors before leaking LP-gas reaches one-fifth its lower limit of flammability. Generally, however, laboratory tests ignore or discard persons with a poor sense of smell, especially the elderly and persons with certain types of hyposmia. Some persons who apparently can smell the warning agents when directed may otherwise fail to notice or identify them. Elderly men seem particularly vulnerable to instances of incidental anosmia and olfactory agnosia. Psychophysical testing of the warning agents has been rather unsophisticated. There exists neither a standard protocol for testing nor adequate specification of the perceptual properties that might make one warning agent better than another. Without such developments, improvement in warning agents will fail to occur. Possible improvements include increases in concentration, the use of blends to insure more uniform delivery of agent and, to decrease the perceptual vulnerability of relatively insensitive people, use of agents with favorable psychophysical (stimulus-response) functions and use of agents with favorable adaptation characteristics. Even without a change in existing products, it seems advisable to learn more about the vulnerability of LP-gas users and to employ educational means to reduce risks.

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