Kitchens Produce Hazardous Pollutants: Study

Researchers say electric burners produce ultrafine particles essentially by volatilizing dust

Think about this as you get ready to cook dinner tonight: You may be exposed to a level of air pollution ten times higher than what the EPA says is safe outdoors.

That's the conclusion from researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Their study found when you cook with gas you may be inadvertently be exposed to extremely high levels of pollutants. Scientist Melissa Lunden has been cooking a lot lately all in the name of science.

She wanted to precisely measure pollutants including particulate matter, and carbon monoxide you may be exposed to when you cook.

Lunden says if you don't use the hood over your stove your exposure to harmful pollutants can be dangerously high.

“Effectively in your home you could be exposed to ten times more pollution than what the EPA says is safe outdoors,” Lunden said.

Researchers found 60-percent of homes in California that cook at least once a week with a gas stove can reach a pollutant level the EPA would consider unsafe.

The levels could cause respiratory problems, and an increased risk of heart disease.

"When particulate levels outdoors are higher we know there are more hospitalizations and more deaths over time,” scientist Brett Singer said.

But he says a simple range hood can dramatically minimize your risk by removing the pollutants from where you breathe. Most hoods cover that area, but not all of them reach out to cover the front burners.

Berkeley Lab’s tips for buying and using range hoods:

  • Turn on the hood every time you cook, and set the fan to the highest setting that the noise is tolerable.
  • Make sure it vents to the outdoors.
  • If it doesn’t, the hood will simply recirculate air in the kitchen.
  • If your range hood does not extend over the front burners, cooking on the back burners could make the hood up to twice as effective at removing pollutants.
  • If buying a new hood, it should cover your front burners and have a setting that moves at least 200 cubic feet of air per minute.
  • If having a range hood is not possible, opening a window while cooking does help.
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