Prove your humanity

It’s happened to every Pittsburgher. It may have happened to you this morning. You walk out the door, ready to start your day, and when you get outside, it smells like one of your neighbors might very well have a decent-sized tire fire going a few blocks over. Only you know there’s no tire fire. That’s just the way the air smells on any given day in Pittsburgh, which still ranks among the top 10 worst cities in America for air pollution.

It’s such a common experience, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab even have a name for it. They call it a “smell event.” And they want you to start tracking them using a new mobile app.

Here’s how it works: When you smell something, open the Smell PGH app and it will automatically detect your location. Then, you rate the intensity of the nose crime on a scale of 1 to 5. If you really take your smell events seriously, you can also type in a few words describing your experience (presumably, colorful language is allowed). Anything rated a 2 or higher automatically sends a message to the Allegheny County Health Department. And there’s a map view, so you can see what others are saying is stinking up the ‘Burgh.


The folks at CREATE Lab hope the app will streamline the reporting process for residents and ultimately give researchers a better understanding of how pollution moves around the region’s “airscape.” So before your next big smell event, grab the Smell PGH app for iPhone or Android. You probably won’t have to wait long for a chance to use it.