What's that smell? - FOX 13 News

What's that smell?

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It was the million-dollar question on everybody's mind in Tampa after their morning commute: What in the world was that smell?

"It had the smell of a natural gas, or a propane gas-type release," said Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Tom Forward.

The "gas-like" smell was such an issue that emergency personnel in Tampa were forced into action.

"911 dispatch center received an alarm of an odor in the downtown area," said Forward.

An investigation turned up a few hunches, but no concrete answer.  To get that, you had to head to strawberry country.

"We have a new chemical that many of the farms are using in larger quantity for the first time called Paladin," said Florida Strawberry Growers Executive Director Ted Campbell.

Paladin is used to fumigate the soil before any berries are planted, killing anything that would put the crop in jeopardy.

"It's organic, safe, used as a food additive, all the good stuff is there.  But it has the smell of onion, garlic what you smell with propane or natural gas," said Campbell.

The chemical has been used for a couple of weeks now.

The smell found its way to Tampa thanks to a Florida summer tradition -- rain.

"Last night was an atmospheric condition, when the rain moved in here last night, the cloud cover locks in your ground air, this particular gas is heavier than air so it moves to the lowest point geographically and I think it found Tampa," explained Campbell.

The Florida Department of Agriculture confirmed the culprit, issuing a release that read, in part:

"The pesticide that was used was paladin, which contains dimethyl disulfide, and is not toxic or poisonous."

The mystery of smelly downtown Tampa solved, with the only victim being your sense of smell.

"It's annoying. It's an inconvenience until we can get a breeze blowing it out of here," added Campbell.

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