The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is teaming up with a Swiss fragrance company to make a perfume that masks the smell of poop.
Bill Gates is focused on poop. More specifically, the smell of poop.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is working with Swiss scent and perfume company Firmenich to battle the foul smells emitted by pit latrines. The foundation gave Firmenich a $6.3 million grant to develop a fragrance that tricks the brain into smelling goodness instead of feces.
Gates wrote on his blog last week about traveling to Switzerland to inhale the smells of a pit latrine and a fragrance that could mask the smell, making pit latrines much more appealing. He explains the science behind how the smell of feces can be transformed into something much less offensive.
“We use pleasant fragrances to cover over the malodors we want to hide — the olfactory equivalent of sweeping dirt under a rug.
Firmenich wanted to try a different, more innovative approach to this age-old challenge. They wanted to attack the problem on a molecular level at the connection between our noses and our brains.
Our noses have 350 olfactory receptors, each one awakening us to new sensations from the smell of a rose to stinky feet. Just a handful of them allow us to smell repulsive odors. Firmenich researchers used this knowledge to develop fragrances that block certain receptors in our noses, making us unable to register certain malodors.”
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Why is this important work? Pit latrines are a tool in the effort to improve world health, especially in poor areas and nations. If the smell can be masked, it could encourage people to use enclosed pit latrines instead of defecating in open areas.