Effects of Industrial Odors on Residential Communities in Colorado

Recent years have witnessed a widespread increase of interest in the relationship between industrial odors and community well-being. Odor assessment, in general, can be done by analytical monitoring, or odor sensory methods. The analytical monitoring of an individual chemical compound may not be accurate since odors are often consist of a complex mixture of many compounds. Human assessment requires training and give results at the study time and circumstances. The key of this study to use the available technology to enable people to report industrial odors in the place and the time of occurrence. Ultimately the goal is to provide information to communities so that they can work with the industries in their neighborhoods to find a solution to improve their air quality and well-being.


The northern part of the Denver metropolitan area has many factories, and two major highways. On the other hand, it has a number of residential areas extending along the north of Denver from Chaffee Park in the west to Commerce City in the east. Many complaints from these north Denver residents about strong industrial odors have been recorded. People reported that they suffer burning eyes and throat, headaches, skin irritation, coughing and breathe difficulties due to strong odors.

In response to these complaints we completed a study in the Globeville community in 2012. Our study was funded by an EPA Environmental Justice Grant and was completed in 2012, with a peer-reviewed paper published in 2015. Efforts to identify the odor and its potential sources included a door-to-door survey, meteorological correlations, and air quality sampling for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfur gases, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Our Globeville study concluded that the area has potential industrial sources of odors and reported high levels of naphthalene. The study recommended a more detailed investigation to explain the effects of odors in communities such as Globeville, to assess the relationship between odor exposure and well-being, and to understand the effect of odor mixtures.

The goal of our study was to investigate the effects of industrial odors on residential communities and to explore whether there is an association with personal well-being. The study area was extended to include the north of Denver metropolitan communities of Globeville, Chaffee Park, Sunny Side, Elyria Swansea, and Commerce City. Four other Colorado communities with similar demography (income, race, residents per household) were included for comparison purposes; Fort Lupton, Greeley, Fort Collins, and Pueblo. Data were collected using online surveys and a smart phone app (Android only).  The surveys can be found here: Greeley,  Fort LuptonNorth Denver, Fort Collins, and Pueblo.  We also aded a spanish version of the survey. A reporting smart phone application (SPA) report odor 1 was used to report odors in their area, and there was an on-line version for those who did not want to report with a smart phone. The study enrolled over 300 participants from each community. The participants were recruited voluntarily through social media. After agreeing and signing the consent participants were asked to take the online survey four times; once every three months. They were also asked to use the SPA to repot odors regularly whenever they noticed them. In addition the participants received requests randomly to describe the air odor. In this case, if there was no odor, they reported that the air is odorless.