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If for some stage play/trick we would like to create some surprising effect in which something with a pungent odor has been released, but at the same time need to ensure that thing be absolutely safe for participants and audience. Is there any organic compound that can do this?

I assume that the compound should be volatile as possible to be effective which reminds me of benzene; however it is detrimental to health. Any recommendation for safer liquids?

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    $\begingroup$ Mercaptan can be used. You know gas which is added in natural gas. It will make feel audience and participants that there is gas leakage. $\endgroup$ – Freddy Sep 28 '14 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ I think this question is off topic. $\endgroup$ – Freddy Sep 28 '14 at 5:58
  • $\begingroup$ @hey I think it's okay as long as the safety issues/concerns are expressed in the answers. It's not really a "medical advice" question, per se. $\endgroup$ – jonsca Sep 28 '14 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ @hey (but thank you for being mindful of this) $\endgroup$ – jonsca Sep 28 '14 at 6:52
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I would be very, very very cautious in choosing the odorant here. And speed of odour spreading would be quite low unless specific adjustments are employed to fasten air circulation. And even then, it is quite easy to screw because of minor differences in air circulation.

In practice I would drop any unpleasant odours like mercaptans, sticking to powerful, but generally not unpleasant odours. An example would be benzaldehyde. It has quite strong odour, but autocatalitically oxidizes on air, so the odour should vanish reasonably fast. Some food odourant or parfume would be even better if possible.

Another possible option would be acetic aldehyde. It has strong apple-like odour, and can be easily produced by pouring ethyl alcohol into cromium (VI) oxide, immidiately producing strong odour.

Though I must say, most odoured compound are slightly toxic, so it is not impossible to overdo with troublesome consequences.

Still, I strongly recommend to move from odour to light and/or smoke effect, preferably using premanufactured and commercially available devices. It is too easy to screw up with it.

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Acetic acid, it's the compound in vinegar, so it is not harmful when diluted. Unfortunately, to get it to spread quickly, it would be best to spray the concentrated acetic acid in the air.

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    $\begingroup$ Can't do. What about allergic effect. We can't take risk and that is the reason i think it should be closed. $\endgroup$ – Freddy Sep 28 '14 at 6:40
  • $\begingroup$ I think it's risky to recommend this because at too high of a concentration it is going to be an eye irritant, and as @hey mentions, there is a possibility that someone could be allergic to it. $\endgroup$ – jonsca Sep 28 '14 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ (but if you add a warning about those issues in the answer, I think it's okay to leave it) $\endgroup$ – jonsca Sep 28 '14 at 6:54
  • $\begingroup$ chances of getting allergy to acetic acid are probably negative. It is one of natural metabolites. It has, however, quite weak odour, you'll need a lot of it. $\endgroup$ – permeakra Sep 28 '14 at 17:36
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Mercaptan gas can used. This is a gas mixed with natural gas to detect leakage because natural gas is colourless, odorless and tasteless. I don't think here will be any adverse effect on health because it mixed in a gas used in kitchen. But should read this

Yes but of course it might happen that everybody start running here and there.

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  • $\begingroup$ Even then, you should somehow ensure that the audience understands that there is no gas leakage, and that it's just a trick. Additionally, the organizer might want to warn local authorities beforehand, in order to avoid causing false alarms. $\endgroup$ – Giulio Muscarello Sep 28 '14 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ @GiulioMuscarello true! I did not consider alarm $\endgroup$ – Freddy Sep 28 '14 at 13:01

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