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Sensory Properties of Selected Terpenes: Thresholds for Odor, Nasal Pungency, Nasal Localization, and Eye Irritationa

  • et al.

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We tested four normosmics and four anosmics in detection thresholds for six terpenes commonly found indoors: cumene, p-cymene, delta-3-carene, linalool, 1-8 cineole, and geraniol. Normosmics provided odor thresholds and anosmics provided nasal pungency thresholds. All subjects provided nasal localization (i.e., right/left nostril) and eye irritation thresholds. Each type of threshold was measured eight times per subject-stimulus combination. Stimuli were presented from squeeze bottles in a two-alternative forced-choice procedure via an ascending method of limits. Odor thresholds ranged between 0.1 and 1.0 ppm. Nasal pungency thresholds lay about three orders of magnitude above odor thresholds. Nasal localization and eye irritation thresholds did not differ between normosmics and anosmics, and fell close to nasal pungency thresholds. Olfactory thresholds could be obtained for all stimuli in all repetitions using the criterion of five correct choices in a row. Trigeminal thresholds (i.e., pungency, localization, and eye irritation) could be obtained on all repetitions only for some terpenes using that same criterion. Carene and cineol produced nasal pungency and eye irritation on all repetitions. None of the terpenes could be localized on all repetitions, but cineol was localized a higher percentage of instances than were the other stimuli. At the other extreme, geraniol failed to evoke any of the three trigeminal responses in most instances. Overall, the results indicate that the three trigeminal thresholds produce a uniform view of the potency of these terpenes, with nasal pungency and eye irritation being slightly more sensitive than nasal localization. Furthermore, application of a previously-derived linear solvation energy relationship to the results reinforced the view that physicochemical properties can predict the chemesthetic impact of volatile organic compounds.

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