Cooking and Air Pollution

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If you love to cook–and especially love to cook healthy–you might wonder what air pollution has to do with your cooking.

Cooking and Air Pollution: Frying Pan

Is your dinner polluting the air?

According to a recent study by the Energy Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the health impact of indoor pollutants produced by cooking is comparable to that of car accidents, and is far greater than secondhand smoke or radon.

Why? As explained in a recent post on the New York Times “Well” blog, cooking is an act of controlled combustion: you’re setting oils, fats, and carbohydrates on fire. This combustion process produces particulate matter such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and other volatile organic compounds such as Acrolein. These pollutants can represent a health hazard, especially for young children. According to the World Health Organization, research links indoor air pollution to acute lower respiratory infections in children under five and also to chronic pulmonary disease and lung cancer in adults. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, cooking represents one of the single largest contributors, generating particulate matter (formally known as PM2.5) at concentrations four times greater than major haze events in Beijing. According to Jennifer M. Logue, an air quality engineer, “The long-term effects of indoor air pollution cannot be overlooked.”

So what can we do to prevent this kind of air pollution in our homes? Simple things like keeping your window open while cooking and having your range hood on will help remove these pollutants. Regular maintenance and cleaning of your range hood is essential as filters might store some pollutants that can be released again. During the summer, use an outdoor grill or stove.

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