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Certified Nose -- The people and animals behind odor detection

Updated on October 12, 2014

The Field of Odor Detection

While working at an environmental engineering firm, I first learned about the term certified nose. One of the environmental engineers in fact had a certified nose. Yes. It's possible to get your nose certified.

But, before you get all excited and think you too can work in this exciting field, people with a certified nose don't usually get to smell pleasant things, like lilacs, wine, or apple pies baking. No, they generally work in the sciences and lend their nose to more mundane (and often gross) smells.

I remember the engineer I worked with wrote technical air quality plans for the agriculture industry (think feedlots and manure). She was proud of her certified nose, and rightfully so. To get a certified nose, people take classes then take a test. And yes, you have to pass to be able to claim you have a certified nose.

Dogs are also known for having good sniffers and are used in odor detection to find drugs and missing people. Smell detection is big business.

Photo Credit: Normal Nose CT Front Cross Section image in the public domain

George Aldrich, Certified Nose for NASA

People Who Have a Certified Nose

According to an NPR report in 2004, George Aldrich has a certified nose. When the NPR clip was aired in 2004, Aldrich was a chemical specialist at NASA. He worked at the White Sands lab in New Mexico. His job? Smell everything that went into the space capsule with the astronauts. At the time, he had completed 700-plus "smelling missions" for NASA.

During the interview, Aldrich said there is a scale from 0 to 4 for ranking smells. Zero is non-detectable and 4 is offensive. When asked if he'd ever smelled a 4, he said yes, he had.It was a refrigerator where urine samples had been stored. Even with the samples moved, the refrigerator retained a foul odor.

Aldrich said he doesn't have any allergies and is in good health, both good qualities for a person to have to get the certified nose designation. He said he is subjected to three tests per year to retain his certified nose status.


Odor Management Certification Programs - Send your nose to school (for people)

Numerous colleges and universities offer programs that allow you to get a certified nose. The programs are called a variety of names, such as the following:

Odor Books - Don't worry, they smell good!

Learn the ins and outs of odor and how odor is measured.

Odor. Smell. Aroma. Scent. Fragrance.

Cactus blooming
Cactus blooming

What is your favorite word for the olfactory sense?

See results

'"Odor is defined in DEQ's air pollution

control rules as 'the sensation

resulting from stimulation of the

human sense of smell.'

Odor is a sensitive subject because

perception of odors is subjective.

What smells bad to one person

may not offend another."

Source: Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

Scent Dogs

Search and Rescue and More

Dogs have an excellent sense of smell. Dogs are generally trained to either be air scent dogs or trailing dogs. According to the U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force Web site, most dogs smell the air and find the "cone" of scent that is concentrated. Trailing dogs on the other hand are trained to smell the ground or trail to track the scent from a sample given to them.

Types of scent dogs include the following:

- Tracking dogs follow the scent of one person with a sample piece of clothing or other item from the person to be tracked.

- Disaster dogs find people in disaster situations like a collapsed building.

- Cadaver dogs are trained to smell the scent of human remains.

- Water search dogs track the scent of humans in the water.

- Avalanche dogs are trained to find humans buried in the snow.


Good Dog - Sit. Stay. Smell.

We Sniffed Out These Tidbits

More Smell News!

Coffee? Armpit? Which would you sniff?

In a comment to this Squidoo lens, SPhilbrick commented that "To clear you're olfactory system from smelling too much, you can sniff either ground coffee or your armpit." This is good to know, in case you are testing perfumes or candles and your nose loses its ability to distinguish among the scents. You may want to sniff your armpit in private or at least tell others what you're doing and why.

Leave your comments about smelly stories here!

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Dogs are also good at sensing when someone has an illness such as cancer. I didn't realize that there was such a thing as a certified nose. Very interesting.

    • JosephsJewelry LM profile image

      JosephsJewelry LM 

      6 years ago

      I once heard that dog noses have 230 million olfactory cells while human noses have only 10 to 11.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      Well, I guess someone's got to do it. Not my first choice for a career though.

    • Scarlettohairy profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      8 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      @SPhilbrick: Thank you for correcting your grammar so I didn't have to... just kidding! That is very interesting about sniffing ground coffee or your armpit. Aren't our senses interesting!?

    • SPhilbrick profile image


      8 years ago

      @SPhilbrick: (Yes, the copy editor in you will note I said "you're" instead of "your". That's been my typing-too-fast-issue of late !)

    • SPhilbrick profile image


      8 years ago

      To clear you're olfactory system from smelling too much, you can sniff either ground coffee or your armpit. Just a bit of trivia to add to your lens. :-)

    • hsschulte profile image


      8 years ago

      So interesting. Who knew they certified noses?

    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      8 years ago

      Rolling this over to my dog lenses. And, you're a trip! Love this lens.


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