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Sniffing out an ill wind
Written by Gizmo   
Thursday, 28 December 2006 13:29

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"Volatile sulfur compounds are found in polluted waters and garbage heaps and are the major component of halitosis — your own bad breath. Two of these compounds — dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and methyl mercaptan, also known as methanethiol (CH3SH) — have strong and unpleasant odors that quickly summon mental images of the sewers and toilets with which they are most closely associated.

Some researchers believe that the ability to analyze the sulfur compounds in one’s breath could aid clinical diagnosis of such conditions as liver failure and transplant rejection. Such analysis also could help address the toxic and oftentimes corrosive effects of some of the compounds, which, though not very acidic naturally, can become so when broken down into SO2 by the atmosphere. However, it is difficult to collect, store and analyze volatile sulfur compounds because they are highly adsorptive and reactive.

Now Kei Toda and his colleagues at Kumamoto University in Japan have devised a detection method for volatile sulfur compounds that collects CH3SH and DMS from the air, traps and separates them within a single column and detects their presence with parts-per-billion resolution."

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