Detection of single and mixed VOCs by smell and by sensory irritation
We have measured complete concentration-detection (i.e., psychometric or detectability) functions to study the olfactory and ocular/nasal chemesthetic (a term that includes sensory irritation) impact of VOCs presented singly and in various binary mixtures. Such functions provide considerably more information than that provided by measuring only a "threshold". The outcome for single VOCs confirmed the much higher absolute sensitivity of olfaction compared to chemesthesis, but also demonstrated that the detection of ocular and nasal sensory irritation increases as a function of vapor concentration at a much higher rate than that for the detection of odor. The outcome for the binary mixtures revealed that, for both olfaction and chemesthesis, complete additivity of detection of individual components held at relatively low levels of detectability but broke down at higher levels. The breakdown for odor detection, compared to that for sensory irritation detection, was, first, more extensive, and, second, dependent to a larger extent on the degree of structural and chemical similarity/dissimilarity between the mixed VOCs.