Inspecting Problem Odors in Multifamily Buildings What's That Smell??


Much ink and angst have been spilled over the issue of noise, whether it comes from a neighboring apartment or building; the sounds that keep one up at night, or unable to work during the day. But while sound is arguably the most likely offender of apartment residents in New York City, smell comes in at a close second. And while the city may not have as-defined odor limits like it does noise ordinances, there is in fact a threshold past which an odor can be considered an impediment to a resident's quality of life.

Edward Olmsted is an industrial hygienist certified by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene who, through his company Olmsted Environmental Services in upstate New York, is occasionally tasked with measuring whether the funk permeating a given condo or co-op is, in fact, excessive.

The Cooperator spoke to Olmsted about the nature of the smell management business.

What's a standard scenario in which you'd be called into a condo or co-op unit?

Generally the kinds of things I get involved with are if somebody lives above, say, a dry cleaner or a salon. Any place where they might still use older chemicals that can waft upward. The kitchen of a restaurant is another example.


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  • No quorum at annual mtg for last 2 yrs. voting done , ballots counted by outside co. results not posted. Outcome requested, ignored. 2) vice pres. no longer lives in co-op, still listed as V P Questions: does #1 constitute a defacto board ? Is 2 legally permitted. Is there a phone number where I can speak to a real person?
  • Good article. The air quality in one’s house should be healthy and fresh. In my co-op for example we are not quite there yet. The building does have some smoking fools. My next door neighbor’s unit also emanates into the hallways a noxious scent, akin to formaldehyde, from using the cheapest construction materials. I sometimes wonder if the odor is cancer causing. It wouldn’t be bad if it is.