From appliances, to the methods we use and the food that we cook, the kitchen can be an indoor pollution hotspot. Whether you’re cooking up a festive feast or baking for family and friends, preparing food can release a unique mix of pollutants into the air.
Kitchen concentrations of ultrafine particles can often be 10 to 40 times higher after cooking and in some cities, it’s estimated that cooking contributes to 62 per cent of total PM2.5 pollution in homes.
The combustion process emits ultrafine particles, which include oil droplets, steam from the water used to cook, ingredients and condensed organic compounds. Research has found that Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels are consistently higher in homes that cook with gas rather than electric stoves. It also indicated that levels were greater when cooking for longer periods of time. Electric stoves may not produce as much air pollution as their gas-powered counterparts, but particulate matter can be emitted from the food being cooked on the stove, regardless of the fuel.
Ovens are also pollution offenders, particularly self-cleaning variations, according to the 2001 California Air Resources Board study. As food waste is burned away, potentially harmful concentrations of particulate matter, NO2, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde are released into the kitchen air.
Ensuring that kitchen appliances such as ovens or stoves are fully vented, and are installed, used and maintained correctly can help to minimise this exposure. Furthermore, opening the window while you cook if the air outdoors is clean enough or using mechanical ventilation like a purifying fan can assist by filtering out pollutants.
The way that food is cooked can affect air pollution inside the kitchen. Oil-based cooking, such as grilling and frying food is generally more polluting then water-based cooking like boiling or steaming, as it generates more fine particles.