Stink Bombs

Military Explores Foul-Smelling Weapons

January 18, 2002

Bullets, guns, grenades, mines, tanks and missiles: the military has many weapons with the power to injure or kill people. But what if you want to disable and capture the enemy rather than cause a mortal injury?

Law enforcement officers have a wide variety of non-lethal weapons that attack the senses to subdue people. Bright, flashing lights can blind people temporarily; loud noises (stun grenades) can stop people in their tracks; tear gas, mace and pepper spray are chemicals that may cause intense pain. The military is now targeting another sense to attack: smell.

Chemical and Engineering News reported that the US military has asked the Monell Chemical Senses Center to develop smells that can be used to disperse crowds and prevent entry to specific areas. The Monell Chemical Senses Center is focusing on biological smells because these odors are thought to be recognized by people around the world. Researchers are working with odors from garbage, human waste and burnt hair to make the perfect stink bomb. The military hopes that a stink bomb will make people run away in disgust or stay away from a place that smells bad. In tests already performed, some of the odors have caused shallow breathing, increased heart rate and signs of nausea.

What smells would you use in a stink bomb? On second thought, don't tell me. I don't want to know.


Odor Warfare. Stinky Bombs. Chemical and Engineering News, January 7, 2002, p. 25.

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