Cooking Is a Surprise Source of Pollution
Is your kitchen making you sick? For a surprising number of people, the answer is yes. A recent study in the UK showed that nitrogen dioxide levels were three times higher in the kitchen than they were along the side of a busy freeway.
Grilling a burger or stir-frying vegetables may not seem dangerous, but Peter Andrey Smith points out that cooking is really “controlled combustion”. Both nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide are byproducts of cooking and other forms of combustion. The problem: nitrogen dioxide can be toxic if inhaled. To make it worse, nitrogen dioxide also lingers in confined spaces like kitchens. In other words, burning my dinner endangers more than my taste buds.
Scientists have recognized that indoor air pollution is a problem for years and are developing new technologies to make our homes cleaner. Standard house paint, which releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is a well-known contributor to indoor air pollution. The fact that houses and apartments are painted regularly doesn’t help. Low-VOC paint releases few or no volatile organic compounds into the air, and has become increasingly popular over the past few years.
Carpets have also been reinvented to lower indoor pollution. Like paint, carpets release high levels of VOCs into the air. Low-VOC carpets release fewer VOCs and are an alternative to standard carpets. Because carpets tend to absorb other chemicals, some carpet installers also offer to air out carpets before they’re installed so that these chemicals are released in a well-ventilated spaces.
Your kitchen stove may be next on the list of household appliances to be rebuilt. At the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, engineers are investigating new stove designs. They recommend the use of the range hood fan to reduce pollution. Eventually, they hope, they can design one that eliminates pollution entirely.