With most people working from home, cooking at home has become more common in recent years. While this is excellent news for your waistlines and wallets, it might not be so good for indoor air quality.
When you cook, various particles and chemicals are released into the air. Some of these are harmless, while others can damage your health if inhaled in high enough concentrations.
In this article, we’ll look at indoor air pollution from cooking and what you can do to minimize the risks.
What are the Most Common Indoor Air Pollutants?
In 2020, roughly 3.2 million deaths were caused by household air pollution, with over 230,000 of them among children under five years old.
You may not be able to see them, but many pollutants are floating around in your indoor air. Since houses, especially the kitchen areas, are usually closed up and not ventilated as much as buildings, these pollutants can quickly build up and reach toxic levels.
The most common indoor air pollutants include:
- Biological Pollutants
- Carbon Monoxide
- Cookstoves and Heaters
- Lead (Pb)
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
- Radon (Rn)
- Indoor Particulate Matter
- Secondhand Smoke/Environmental Tobacco Smoke
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
- Wood Smoke
Most of these pollutants are from everyday household activities, like cooking, cleaning, and smoking. For instance, formaldehyde is found in many cleaning products, while carbon monoxide is emitted from gas stoves and heaters.
How Does Cooking Affect Indoor Air Pollution?
From frying up bacon to baking a cake, cooking can release various particles and chemicals into the air. While some of these are relatively harmless, indoor air pollution from cooking can harm your health if inhaled in high enough concentrations.
People use many heating methods to prepare meals, including gas, electricity, and wood. In fact, more than 30% of the world's population lives in areas where they cook and heat over open fires or inefficient stoves. This cooking method uses kerosene, biomass, and coal as cooking fuel, which can generate harmful pollutants and cause severe health consequences.
While each of these heating methods can produce indoor environmental hazards, especially if you don’t have a good range hood that vents the smoke and particles out, gas and electric ovens usually produce less pollution than wood-burning stoves.
Largest Source of Indoor Air Pollution: Kitchen
Many factors affect indoor air quality, but indoor air pollution from cooking is the largest source.
In most homes, the kitchen is where people usually spend the most time. It’s also the room where most of the cooking and cleaning takes place.
Various types of cooking can release different pollutants into the air. For example, frying foods in high heat can produce harmful particles such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). As the temperature rises, so does the number of released particles in the air.
The cooking method also affects the type of pollutants that are emitted. For instance, gas and electric ovens can emit gasses such as formaldehyde, acetone, and benzene. In contrast, wood-burning fireplaces can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene.
Air Pollutants from Cooking
When you cook, the pollutants can stay in the air for hours or even days after you’ve finished. They can also settle on surfaces and be inhaled when you breathe.
The following help form pollution:
- Organic chemicals
- Allergens (mold spores and pollen)
Health Risks Occur from Cooking
In poorly ventilated cooking areas, pollutants from cooking can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels. Children and women are particularly susceptible to the hazards caused by cooking-related pollutants, as they typically spend more time indoors.
Indoor pollution is the leading cause of common health problems, such as nose and throat irritation, headaches, and fatigue. Studies have shown that high levels of exposure to these pollutants can cause serious diseases, including respiratory infections, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Most children are at risk for more severe symptoms like asthma attacks as they are more likely to have allergies because of their age or condition. Similarly, people with heart or lung issues may struggle to breathe freely when exposed to these pollutants long-term.
How to Minimize the Pollution Generated from Cooking?
Switch to Electric Stove for Cooking
If you're not sold on electric stovetops, consider induction heating, which uses magnetic force to heat metals indirectly. This technology allows you to adjust the heat level at any time, making cleaning easier and reducing the risk of burning yourself.
Since you're not using an open flame, it significantly reduces the pollutants emitted into the air.
Make Sure There is Good Air Circulation in Your Kitchen
Whether you're using a range hood or not, it's essential to have proper ventilation in your kitchen. Doing so will help remove any pollutants generated from cooking and prevent them from circulating throughout your home.
If you have a range hood:
- Check the ducts to make sure it vents to the outdoors.
- Use it while cooking or using your stove.
- If you cook on the back burner, use the range exhaust fan to help ventilate the kitchen better.
If you don't have a range hood:
- Use a wall or ceiling exhaust fan while cooking.
- If you want to increase airflow throughout the house, open the windows and exterior doors.
Implement an Air Purification System
Most homes don't have an air purification system installed. As such, outdoor pollutants can easily get into the house and impact indoor air quality.
Air purifiers work by drawing in polluted air and passing it through a series of air filters that trap pollutants. The purified air is then released back into the room, providing clean and fresh-smelling air.
While there is no guarantee that modern indoor/outdoor purifying systems will completely remove all pollutants from your air, they can significantly clean the air and reduce the level of toxic chemicals in your home.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of gas stoves?
Gas stoves are usually more cost-efficient than electric stoves. The temperature is easier to control, and they work well with different pots and pans.
Is a gas stove safe?
Yes, a gas burner stove is safe as long as you lead the exhaust system of your stove outside to avoid any health hazards.
What are the requirements for venting gas appliances?
According to federal law, gas stoves aren't required to be vented to the outside air. Most state laws don't require them to be vented, either.
What are the drawbacks of a hood?
Most existing hoods and fans circulate the room's indoor atmosphere rather than venting it out into the fresh outdoor environment. Also, the performance of hood filters varies greatly, from capturing up to 15% of exhaust fumes to capturing up to 98%.
What are the harmful effects of cooking pollution?
When exposed long-term, cooking pollution can cause various respiratory problems, including asthma, bronchitis, and lung cancer.
What are the legal requirements for CO monitors?
You should install Carbon Monoxide (CO) monitors in any room with a heater, fireplace, or attached garage powered by solid fuels. In the U.S., 27 states require CO monitors by law.
What are the potential health effects of chemicals?
Chemicals and toxic pollutants can cause a weakened immune system, allergies, asthma, and skin rashes.
What are the health effects of gas stoves?
Using gas stoves has been linked to an increased risk of developing asthma and other respiratory problems because of the release of nitrogen dioxide.
What are the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Regulations?
The Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Regulations state the threshold limits of various substances in the U.S. Some of the substances included are CO (25 ppm), CO2 (300-400 ppm), PAHs (10 ppm), and formaldehyde (0.1 ppm).
Cooking is a necessary part of life, but it can also generate a significant amount of household air pollution. From toxic gasses like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide to allergens like particulate matter and organic chemicals, these pollutants can seriously affect your family's health.
To improve indoor air quality, consider switching to an electric stovetop, ensuring there is proper ventilation in your kitchen, and investing in an air purifier.
For more information on how to improve your air quality at home and purchase the best indoor air filters, visit Airzey today.