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Air Test Results from "Mystery Odor" Areas Show No Danger

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August 19, 2011

Tests of air samples taken from the areas where a mysterious “fuel-like” odor wafted in over San Diego County’s north coast Wednesday indicate that while the smell was annoying, it was not dangerous and did not pose a public health risk.

“We tested samples taken from different areas where the odor could be smelled, and the tests — which measured ambient air levels of 56 hydrocarbons and 48 different types of toxic air contaminants  — showed only normal, low, background levels,” said Bob Kard, director of the County’s Air Pollution Control District (APCD). “In other words, the results were very good news. Nonetheless, we know the odors were out there and bothering people.” 

Kard said that APCD was continuing to try to trace the source of the mysterious odor by plotting complaints and wind information in the hope of identifying a geographic origin. However, Kard said, that process could take a week or more and could prove futile because the odors dissipated by Thursday morning.

APCD, local fire agencies and other agencies started fielding calls around 3 p.m. Wednesday, from residents living in communities stretching from Oceanside to La Jolla, complaining of a heavy odor that they described as fuel-like in varying degrees, from gasoline to kerosene. County inspectors immediately canvassed the areas to try to locate a source and APCD staff collected samples to test. APCD officials also contacted the Navy, Coast Guard, Camp Pendleton, Lindbergh Field and the Federal Aviation Administration, which all reported that they had no idea what the source of the odor might be.