In Print: Europe’s Got A Stink Problem
The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in the current issue of C&EN.
This week’s print Newscripts comes from Alex Scott, C&EN senior editor for Europe, who writes about the smells in his neck of the woods in “The French Stench, The English Pong, The Cheesy Norwegians.” He covers the sources of a sulfurous rotten-egg smell in coastal France, an unpleasant “pong” on a British beach, and noxious goat-cheese fumes in a Norwegian tunnel.
“Chemistry is happening all around us,” Scott says. “The stories this week show just how this can happen and how even the smell of benign chemicals in the environment can stop us in our tracks. You can even make money from some smells such as was the case with the discovery of ambergris.” (A Brit found some ambergris, the intestinal slurry of a sperm whale valued for perfume-making, on a beach).
As for what he couldn’t fit into print, Scott says he wished he could’ve gone into more detail about just how rotten-egg-smelling mercaptan was accidently released from a Lubrizol plant in France. But hey, he’d love to tell the blogosphere more: “Rather than being produced as a final product, the mercaptan was generated incidentally during the production of an additive for a lubricant. The additive wasn’t cooled quickly enough in a reactor, and this led to a release of mercaptan. Normally this is avoided. Lubrizol’s problem was then that its air-scrubbing equipment was unable to reduce the mercaptan to the extremely low levels at which humans can detect it, hence the release.”
Stay sniffin’, Alex.