Maria Beatriz Yabur
Maria Beatriz Yabur

Urban Environment


Work Position

Date passed dissertation defense
April 13, 2010


Beatriz’s previous studies in architecture and fine arts stimulated her interest in people’s interactions with their environment with special interest in the role of the sense of smell in such interactions, an interest which lead to her dissertation topic in Urban Systems.  From 2008 to 2010, Ms. Yabur worked in a series of research projects in urban health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.  Ms Yabur has a Masters degree in Architecture from the New Jersey School of Architecture and a Bachelors degree in fine arts from IUESAPAR in Caracas, Venezuela. She received a Fulbright scholarship in 2000-2003, a NJSOA design award in 2001, and a NJIT tuition award for 2003 to 2008.

Title of the Dissertation

Noxious Odor in Residential Environments: Coping in Reactive and Proactive Ways in Three New Jersey Communities

Dissertation Abstract

Currently little is known about the effects of noxious odor on people’s daily lives. This lack of knowledge is apparent in the rules and regulations that regulate odors. This research addresses this lack of knowledge by looking at the effects of current noxious odor on residents’ life in three residential areas in northern New Jersey. This research examines the coping process residents adopt to deal with this environmental annoyance.

In this study I propose two ways in which residents cope with odor: reactive’s (residents try to keep noxious odors out from their homes) and proactive’s (residents take actions to eliminate the source of odor) Each of these coping behaviors have two outcomes: reactive coping is divided in (1) the daily activities residents modify to avoid the odor and (2) the desire to move away; proactive coping is divided in (1) contacting someone and (2) contacting the correct agencies. Two models are developed to study the determinants of these types of coping, both include socioeconomic characteristics. The variables in the model of reactive coping include: perception of odor, community attachment, and physical reactions. The variables in the model of proactive coping include: knowledge of the correct agencies, feeling helpless, and felling hopeless in addition to the already mentioned in reactive coping.

The study sample have 90 respondents which includes male (n=33) and female (n=67) residents over the age of 24 of diverse ethnicity (white, African American and Hispanic). The majority of respondents (81%) smelled the odor. Of those who smelled the odor (n=73) 61 respondents tried to eliminate the odor from their homes and 23 respondents considered to move away due to the odor. Less than half of the respondents who smelled the odor knew about the correct agencies (40%), 39% of respondents contacted someone and 26% of respondents contacted the correct agencies. Data collection was obtained from in-person interviews and site observations.

The multivariate regression analysis of the data revealed that perception of odor (p .000) and physical reactions (p .077) are needed to engage in the coping behavior to keeping the odor out from their homes. Considering moving away is only affected by perception of odor (p .011). Three variables resulted significant in the proactive coping outcome of contacting anyone: perception of odor (p.028), problem solving (p.029), and feeling helpless or hopeless (.073). The variables affecting the likelihood that a resident contact the correct agencies are perception of odor (.023), feeling helpless or hopeless (.076), knowledge of correct agencies (.005) and feelings of attachment (.066).

Results suggests that although physical reactions affect reactive coping behaviors, are not necessary to considering moving away or to any of the two studied proactive coping outcomes. Ethnicity plays an important role in the way residents react to noxious odors. Odor regulation is widely unknown among respondents.  

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