Last week the switchboard operators in the Philadelphia area received dozens of 911 calls concerning a mystery odor that enveloped parts of the surrounding area. Emergency management officials have been unable to pinpoint the source of the strange odor which appears to have dissipated almost as quickly as it appeared.
The environmental professionals at Sussex Environmental Health Consultants, LLC (SEHC) hear of cases like these all the time. The company is an environmental, health and safety (EHS) consulting firm located in Delaware that has decades of experience helping to identify and resolve both outdoor and indoor air quality (IAQ) issues across the Mid-Atlantic.
“Unpleasant odors in and around properties can not only be a distraction to building occupants, but they can also pose a health risk,” stated Susan White, Ph.D., CMC, President of SEHC. “Quite often the source of the problem is not readily apparent. Unpleasant odor sources in buildings can include off-gassing from mold and other microbial contaminants or improperly vented sewer gases. Vehicle exhaust and other outdoor sources of contaminated air can also enter structures,” she continued.
Sewer gas is a frequent cause of IAQ complaints. Sewer gas is composed of mostly methane, but can also include a host of other gases that may include ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. When operating properly, plumbing traps and vents prevent sewer gas from entering structures, but these can malfunction. Buildings with HVAC systems that bring outdoor air into the structure can pull escaping sewer gas back into a building if air intakes are placed too close to sewer vents.
Contamination from mold and bacteria can also create odors that at times can be misidentified as sewer gases. These organisms can emit a musty or earthy smell in properties with microbial growth and bacteria often causes “dirty sock” odors.
About Sussex Environmental Health Consultants, LLC
SEHC is a certified woman owned business that provides environmental and health and safety consulting services. The company is located in the Mid-Atlantic and services clients nationwide. SEHC provides solutions to clients ranging from homeowners to international Fortune 500 corporations.