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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Use of n-butanol as an odorant to standardize the organoleptic scale of breath odour judges.

Objective: The alcohol n-butanol has been recommended for use as a standard odorant by various groups for the training or standardization of breath odour judges and sensory evaluation panels. The objective of this study is to assess the use of n-butanol as a suitable odorant for organoleptic training of breath judges. Methods: One judge with full smell acuity was trained in the method of organoleptic assessment using odorant solutions of main chemical classes (acids, amines, indole and sulphides) with the exception of alcohols. The subject was proficient in scoring odorant solutions, standard gas mixtures and human breath using the Rosenberg 0-5 organoleptic scale. A wide range of n-butanol solutions were prepared from 0 to 90 000 ppm and dispensed as replicate 12-ml volumes in Universal bottles (24 ml) leaving a headspace of 12 ml. Sets of odorants were prepared, labelled by code, randomized and presented to the judge in a completely blind fashion. The judge scored each concentration. This process was repeated on 32 occasions over a period of 12 weeks. Mean values of data for each determination for each concentration series were plotted against the log concentrations of odorant. Linear regression slope analysis was used to measure slope, the 95% CI of slope and the scatter of points (R(2) value). Headspace concentrations of odorant were determined using gas chromatography (GC) analysis. Results: The n-butanol regression slope gave a high R(2) value (0.971) and low scatter. However, the data did not correspond to other published work using an ASTM method where the range of recommended butanol concentrations was insufficient at both the high and low ends to determine the top and threshold. Moreover, headspace analysis using GC confirmed the published gas concentrations to be in error by a factor of 100. It was also observed that high concentrations of odorants were irritant causing desensitization if used for prolonged periods. Conclusion: The published method had erroneous headspace calculations listed and n-butanol could not be recommended as a training odorant because of its irritancy.[1]


  1. Use of n-butanol as an odorant to standardize the organoleptic scale of breath odour judges. Saad, S., Greenman, J., Duffield, J., Sudlow, K. Oral diseases. (2005) [Pubmed]
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