Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2004;30(6):486-496    pdf


Annoyance and performance of three environmentally intolerant groups during experimental challenge with chemical odors

by Österberg K, Persson R, Karlson B, Ørbæk P

Objectives This study investigated exposure- and subject-related determinants of annoyance and performance during the chemical odor provocation of healthy persons with self-reported environmental annoyance.

Methods Persons with self-reported annoyance attributed to (i) chemicals or smells (smell-annoyed, SA, N=29), (ii) electrical equipment (electrically annoyed, EA, N=16), and (iii) both smells and electricity (generally annoyed, GA, N=39) were, together with referents (N=54), challenged with n-butyl acetate in an exposure chamber at levels far below the threshold values for neurotoxic effects and trigeminal irritation. A sequence of three air concentrations, 0.37, 1.5, and 6 ppm (1.8, 7.1, and 28 mg/m3) was used, counterbalanced within groups, together with intermittent periods of room air between each exposure level. The response measures comprised ratings of annoyance and smell intensity and reaction-time tests.

Results Only the GA group showed clearly elevated ratings of smell annoyance, mucous membrane irritation, and fatigue, as well as longer reaction times, compared with the referents, in response to the challenge. No group difference was found for the smell-intensity ratings. During intermittent periods without exposure, only the GA group maintained higher ratings for mucous membrane irritation and fatigue. Reaction time and all the rating dimensions showed a positive relationship with momentary n-butyl acetate concentration, while cumulative exposure had a more limited impact on the ratings and reaction time. A suggestion effect by the chamber environment before exposure could not be demonstrated.

Conclusions The results suggest that self-reported annoyance generalized to both electrical equipment and smells is a better predictor of chemical intolerance than self-reported annoyance to smells only.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2000;26(2):93-98  2003;29(1):40-50  1999;25(6):569-573  1998;24(5):432-438  2000;26(3):219-226  2003;29(2):143-151
The following articles refer to this text: 2006;32(2):109-210; 2006;32(6):463-472