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Did You Know? Cooking Can Actually Harm Indoor Air Quality!

Shiton's CleanAir Solutions helps homeowners improve their kitchen indoor air quality this summer.

Did You Know? Cooking Can Actually Harm Indoor Air Quality!

Cooking is more than just a means of feeding your family. It is a form of tradition, creativity, excellence and health! But while focusing on cooking a nourishing meal, you may not realize how cooking affects your indoor air quality. 

Did you know that certain cooking appliances and activities emit harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds), particulate matter and hazardous gases? Prolonged exposure to high concentrations of these emissions can cause potential health effects too! Effects include respiratory difficulties, headaches, flu-like symptoms...etc.

Many cooking activities also produce excessive water vapour - contributing to indoor humidity levels.

In this article, our experts explore how cooking affects indoor air quality. We also give you a few pointers on improving your kitchen air quality as you cook! 

 

What Pollutants and Pollutant Sources Are In The Kitchen?

According to a study done by Health Canada, Canadians spend about 90% of their time indoors. They work, sleep, clean, do their laundry, cook….etc. all from the comfort of their home. That’s why our CleanAir Solutions team provides you with all the knowledge and advice we can about improving indoor air quality. Because we know how crucial it is to your health. And to the health of your family!

In our last blog, we explored all the different ways laundry affects your indoor air quality. We learned how certain practices like cleaning your dryer vent can reduce the risk of poor ventilation and carbon monoxide emissions. We also learned how some everyday laundry products release harmful VOC concentrations. We even touched on how laundry plays a role in the humidity of our homes. 

In this post, we will expand on that research - moving from the laundry room to the kitchen! 

What are some of the pollutants in our kitchens? Are there ways we can mitigate or prevent them? Where do they come from in the first place?

Keep reading to find out! 

What Types Of Cooking Activities Produce Pollutants?

  • Deep-Frying 
  • Frying 
  • Roasting 
  • Broiling 
  • Browning 
  • Charring
  • Sautéing 
  • Toasting 
  • Baking 
  • And burning! 

Most, if not all, cooking activities produce some sort of by-product. 

In fact, whether you use a gas or an electric stove, the simple act of cooking produces particulate matter (PM) - also called particle pollution. And even these tiny airborne food, oil or fat particles can cause potential harm to your health.

We explore some of the cooking activities that produce these pollutants in more detail below:

Deep Frying

When someone says deep-fried food, our minds instantly go to yummy treats like deep-fried chicken, doughnuts and potato chips. Not the potential health risks associated with this cooking activity, like eye irritation and respiratory difficulty. 

We are here to change that! Why? Because everyone should be aware of the potential dangers in their home environment. Only then can we make an informed decision for our health. And the health of our family. 

Deep frying involves lots of oil or fat and extremely high temperatures. The concept is to submerge ingredients (i.e. doughnuts) deep into the hot fat - resulting in a crisp crust and complex flavours. 

The downside to deep frying in your kitchen is the high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), PM and other unhealthy air pollutants. 

Browning

How do you prefer your toast? Golden brown or charred? 

Scientists say that, when toasting bread, you should aim for a golden finish. And not just for taste preference! 

A darker discolouration can result in higher PM concentrations, brown carbon and VOC emissions. 

In fact, that morning bread-in-the-toaster smell is actually caused by the emission of these compounds in your indoor air. 

Grilling 

Barbeque season is one of our favourite times of the year. And we bet the same is true for most Canadians!

But did you know grilling can harm your indoor air as well? 

Charcoal is actually the worst pollutant source in regards to grilling. It can release,

  • HCAs,
  • Smoke,
  • Ash and 
  • PAHs 

According to the EPA, smoking woods (i.e. hickory) can release:

  • PM
  • Benzene 
  • Formaldehyde 
  • Acrolein 
  • PAHs

Even charcoal lighter fluid, natural gas and propane grills release harmful pollutants. 

In fact, all grilling methods cause emissions, whether you choose to barbeque, grill or smoke. 

But do you have to worry about these pollutants if grilling outdoors? Absolutely you do. 

You especially have to if you use screen doors or open windows as ventilation for your home. Smoke can pollute indoor air as it drifts from your barbeque and enters your home through open windows. 

So what are some of the health effects associated with these cooking-related pollutants?

Potential Health Effects Of Cooking-Related Pollutants

  • Wheezing 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Coughing 
  • Headache 
  • Fatigue 
  • Flu-like symptoms 
  • Asthma Symptoms
  • Eye, nose and throat irritation

How do we mitigate indoor air pollution from cooking and prevent these health effects? We listed a few different ways below! 

 

How To Improve Indoor Air Quality In The Kitchen

Use a Range Hood

According to a Health Canada study, using a range hood can reduce PM, Nitrogen Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and water vapour. 

Instead of spreading throughout your kitchen and home, the range hood vents these pollutants outdoors. Removing them from the indoor air you breathe in. 

Pro Tip: set your exhaust fan on a high setting (300 cubic feet/minute) while cooking. This will help reduce your exposure to these pollutants by 80% more than if you set it to a slower speed.

Put It On The Back Burner

Overhanging oven hoods usually only cover the two back burners on your stovetop. This means these two burners offer the most ventilation - reducing your exposure to harmful pollutants.

Pro Tip: we recommend focusing your cooking activities on these two back burners. 

Switch To An Electric Stove

Natural gas and propane stoves can generate many harmful pollutants, including:

  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide 
  • Carbon Dioxide 
  • Formaldehyde 
  • PM 

And while electric stoves can potentially emit particulate matter, they do not produce nearly as much air pollution as gas stoves. 

Pro Tip: switch to an electric stove to help reduce the production of these harmful gases in your home. 

Clean Your Oven Properly 

How often do you clean your oven? Do you clean it safely?

Whether you have an electric or gas oven, cleaning it is 100% necessary. But be mindful of the self-cleaning feature! 

Although this is a convenient component, it can potentially be dangerous too! This self-cleaning process can emit high concentrations of airborne pollutants, including:

  • PM 
  • Nitrogen Dioxide 
  • Carbon Monoxide 
  • Formaldehyde 

Pro Tip: ensure your range hood ventilation is on a high setting when using the self-cleaning feature on your oven.

Increase Ventilation 

Ventilation is key to good indoor air quality. It can prevent mould growth, remove harmful substances and mitigate VOC concentrations.

And while a range hood is a great way to ventilate your home as you cook, it may not be enough! Other ventilation methods can help too. 

Try opening windows in your kitchen or installing a whole-house ventilator!

Learn How To Barbeque Safely 

Understanding and practising grilling safety is a must. And thankfully, the National Fire Protection Association has offered many barbeque safety tips relating to potential fire hazards in charcoal and propane grills.

But as you read earlier, barbeques can pose potentially serious indoor air quality issues too. Smoke can easily drift from your barbeque to your home through an open window, screen or door. 

To help prevent smoke from getting into your indoor air, remember to: 

  1. Move the BBQ to a safe location and angle it away from your home.

  2. Close all windows and doors to your home before you light the grill. 

 

Learn More About Indoor Air Quality From Our Shipton’s Clean Air Solutions Technicians!

At Shipton’s CleanAir Solutions, we give you the tools and tips you need to stay safe and healthy at home - all summer long! 

Do you have questions about your indoor air quality? Let us know! 

You can reach our IAQ team at (905) 544-2470 or online!

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