American University of Beirut

 Smell Hazard Investigation for Mitigation (SHIM) Project

  • ​​​​Background

It's been 4 years since Lebanon's solid waste crisis made international headlines but we can still smell the problem in neighborhoods across Beirut. To get the issue out of sight, authorities placed emergency landfills near populated areas such as Costa Brava and Bu​rj Hammoud. But the issues continue to get worse and this is evident in the air we breathe. Citizens are constantly reminded of poor waste management through the foul smells we bear every day. We are fed up so hand in hand with citizens, AUB-NCC is responding to these environmental hazards.

Due to numerous complaints concerning the smell, between last October and March, AUB-NCC decided to conduct a small scale study on the environmental levels of Hydrogen Sulfide (One of the most important and poisonous smell contributors in Landfill) in Burj Hammoud. ​ AUB-NCC's experts compared the concentration from a balcony located in Burj Hammoud, at a distance of 1.1 km from the landfill, to the concentration at AUB, at a distance of 5.9 km from the same landfill. Burj Hammoud had 6 times more odor pollution. 

The level of H2S detected in Burj Hammoud (average of 51.0 µg/m3 over a period of 10 days) was 25 times higher than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's safe limit for chronic exposure. What made these results even more alarming, are the 11 hospitals and medical centers and 32 schools and education centers that are located less than 2 km away from the Landfill; all of which are subjected to concerning levels of H2S. The findings from this recent study gained far reaching attention from journalists and on social media. 

       Figure 1: Map of the areas affected by the smell

  • Description
Given the public reaction to our eye opening study, AUB-NCC decided to scale up our odor monitoring, dissemination of information, and set the stage for odor mitigation through the participatory SHIM project. The project is a response to 1) growing public demand for knowledge and solutions, 2) the alarming results from the preliminary assessment, 3) the major data gaps on the environmental levels of odor pollution, and 4) misinformation on the risks related to the odor due to the lack of publicly available evidence. 

  • Benefits
The SHIM Project will develop a reliable data source to identify, investigate, and communicate the causes, severity, and potential health risks associated with Beirut's foul smell while setting the stage for evidence based mitigation. The SHIM Project will establish a network of continuous H2S monitors in key locations. The data collected will be shared on an online and publicly accessible open platform. The data platform will give the public a clearer picture and understanding on the extent of odor pollution from poor waste management and the potential health risks associated with the H2S levels our monitors are reporting. Through the data platform and AUB-NCC expertise, the SHIM project will help our urban communities and authorities push for the correct decisions when it comes to waste management, the environment, and our wellbeing.​

  • Results 
Due to the time needed for data retrieval, analysis, and dissemination, the map will be updated on a weekly basis.

The map illustrates the intensity of the odor in different locations using several colors displayed inside the map legend. Click on the link to know more! 

Interactive Map link: 


  • ​Where are we now (November 2019)?

If you want us to measure in your balcony, click the link below and fill the form! 

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