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A recent study from the University of East Anglia highlights the potential dangers of losing one’s sense of smell. According to the research, more than a third of individuals with smell disorders have encountered gas safety concerns in the last five years. This emphasizes the overlooked hazards linked to olfactory dysfunctions, which impair the sense of smell.

Olfactory disorders linked to risk of hazardous events

The study conducted from February to September 2022 surveyed 432 participants, finding that 85.9% had safety concerns, especially regarding gas leaks, smoke detection, and spoiled food. The data showed a significant association between smell disorders and hazardous events over a five-year period.

According to the research, a considerable number of participants encountered significant olfactory-related challenges within the past five years. For instance 32.2% reported encountering safety concerns linked to spoiled food, 14.8% were involved in gas-related incidents resulting in injuries, 34.5% experienced instances of gas scares, and 18.5% encountered safety mishaps in their workplace.

Dr. Liam Lee, the lead author of the study and an Academic Foundation doctor at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, emphasized the impact of smell loss on personal safety and emotional well-being. He suggested potential interventions to enhance safety, such as educating individuals about risks and developing tools like ‘scratch and sniff’ cards to aid in identifying hazardous odors.

Olfactory dysfunction on the rise following COVID-19

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 5% of the UK population, over three million people, experienced smell loss. Post-pandemic, this number has risen, with an additional one million individuals facing persistent olfactory issues after contracting COVID-19. These disorders vary from complete loss (anosmia) to reduced smell (hyposmia), distorted smells (parosmia), or smell hallucinations (phantosmia). A survey revealed that 22% of respondents linked their olfactory dysfunction to COVID-19, underscoring the lasting impact of the pandemic.

UEA’s Norwich Medical School’s professor Carl Philpott said that the majority of participants did not encounter any negative occurrences. However, a significant finding was that individuals who did not have gas-related incidents often chose to avoid living in areas with gas installations due to concerns about potential accidents.