Thousands of residents from northwest France to across the English Channel awoke Tuesday morning to the distinct smell of rotten eggs, cabbage, and garlic after natural gas was released into the air.
Authorities told residents that the mercaptan gas, a “stenching agent” added to odorless municipal gas used in ovens and heating systems to detect gas leaks, was harmless, according to The Telegraph
. The gas came from a factory in France.
The smell crept as far as 100 miles away, and residents in Hampshire and London reported the smell over the course of the day.
More than 100,000 concerned Europeans who thought the stench was a gas leak contacted the National Grid, an electricity and gas utility company. Officials said the number of calls was unprecedented, and the calls exceeded 100,000 by 2 p.m.
The National Grid said it usually fields 8,000 to 10,000 calls a day in the United Kingdom.
Residents' and businesses' fear of a gas leak caused many to frantically check their homes. Others complained the sulfurous odor gave them headaches and made them nauseous. Officials told people to keep doors and windows closed when calls started rolling in.
The Health Protection Agency in the UK issued a statement insisting that the gas will dissipate on its own and that it did not pose any threat.
“It is an unpleasant odor which may cause some people to feel slightly nauseous but it will dispel naturally," a spokesperson told The Telegraph.
The smell came from Ohio-based Lubrizol, which was founded in 1928 and has been part of U.S. conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc. since 2011. The company has production facilities in some 19 countries, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
The smell comes give years after “le stink” – the infamous occasion when parts of England were subjected to the reek of French agricultural waste blowing across from the continent.
Tony Ennis, technical director at Haztech Consultants Ltd in Winsford, England, explained the need for mercaptan gas.
"Natural gas itself has no smell and the odor is added to make people aware of any gas leakage as a safety measure," he told The Telegraph.
Ennis added that the cold weather and weak winds helped the stench reach as far as it did.
Ryan White, 38, from Kennington, in South East England, told The Telegraph the stench was so strong he could smell it even after driving miles away.
"It was a strange smell. You could smell it everywhere," he said.
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