Are bad smells harmful?
You can't be harmed by a smell itself any more than you can by a colour.
Asked by: Oscar Cossman, Leicester
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.
- I just bought a lovely new car, so why is the smell of it making me feel sick?
- Why do we associate citrus smells with being clean?
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.
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.
- Try your first 6 issues for just £9.99 when you subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
- Risk - free offer! Cancel at any time when you subscribe via Direct Debit.
- FREE UK delivery.
- Stay up to date with the latest developments in the worlds of science and technology.