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Are bad smells harmful? © Getty Images

Are bad smells harmful?

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You can't be harmed by a smell itself any more than you can by a colour.

Asked by: Oscar Cossman, Leicester

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Smells in themselves do not cause harm. A smell is a neural response to airborne molecules binding to receptors in the mucus membranes of your nose. You can't be harmed by a smell any more than you can by a colour.

But the chemical that causes the smell can harm you. In general, we have evolved so that harmful substances smell bad, to warn us.

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Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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