China trains “professional noses” to sniff out pollution

MIKE CLARKE/AFP For years, dogs have been used to sniff for illegal drugs. Now, in China, humans are soon going to be used as “professional noses” to sniff for illegal emissions while patrolling the southern city of Guangzhou. The noses have been trained by environmental experts to differentiate between hundreds of odors and gauge their threat to ...

601037_070621_china_05.jpg
601037_070621_china_05.jpg

MIKE CLARKE/AFP

For years, dogs have been used to sniff for illegal drugs. Now, in China, humans are soon going to be used as "professional noses" to sniff for illegal emissions while patrolling the southern city of Guangzhou. The noses have been trained by environmental experts to differentiate between hundreds of odors and gauge their threat to human health. Unsurprisingly, a member of the sniffing team has described the work as "quite unpleasant."

The sniffers expect to receive certificates that will officially let them commence their careers as professional noses. The certificates will be valid for just three years, though, because humans' olfactory capabilities tend to decline with age.

MIKE CLARKE/AFP

For years, dogs have been used to sniff for illegal drugs. Now, in China, humans are soon going to be used as “professional noses” to sniff for illegal emissions while patrolling the southern city of Guangzhou. The noses have been trained by environmental experts to differentiate between hundreds of odors and gauge their threat to human health. Unsurprisingly, a member of the sniffing team has described the work as “quite unpleasant.”

The sniffers expect to receive certificates that will officially let them commence their careers as professional noses. The certificates will be valid for just three years, though, because humans’ olfactory capabilities tend to decline with age.

The noses should be careful. Earlier this year, two sniffer dogs in Malaysia received death threats from crime bosses after authorities used them to help locate pirated DVDs and CDs (the canines sniffed for polycarbonates used in manufacturing disks). So when it comes to illegal polluters, who nose what could happen?

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.