Cooking and knowledgeIn the Cooking and Knowledge section, health journalist Tijn Elferink delves into a confusing topic of food. This time: Is cooking bad for home air quality?
Cook some brown rice in eight minutes and fry some vegetables in a few minutes. This quick, healthy snack is less healthy than it sounds, warns Pete Jacobs, particle specialist at TNO. “During baking and roasting, fine dust is released. Without a proper suction hood, this results in higher concentrations of particulates than all the cars driving by. I am afraid that cooking is harmful to health.”
The point is, the effects of particulate matter in the kitchen are hard to measure. We know what particles from cars do, for example: tiny particles get into the body through the lungs and cause inflammatory reactions. It is not clear that the particles that arise when the fat in the pan evaporates is healthy. “It’s just like water,” Jacobs explains. “Drinking is good. But if water gets into your lungs, this is very annoying. Eating fat is fine, but what it does in our lungs is not yet known.”
In this podcast, Cooking & Food Editor Elaine Dean Hollander talks to health journalist Tijn Elferink:
This recycling cap is specially designed for odor. Fine dust simply returns home
Then there’s also baking at higher temperatures, like pans. This creates what are called PAKS: carcinogens. “I hope people now know that you should not eat black meat. But these substances can also get into the air during baking.” This means that roasting bread can be more unhealthy than slowly roasting a piece of meat. “Toasting bread gets close to burning and causes a lot of particles.”
Electric cooking is healthier
The problem appears not only in the pan, but also under the pan when cooking with gas. “When cooking on gas, dust dioxide and ultrafine particles are formed. Babies who cook with gas have a 20 percent higher risk of respiratory disease, according to TNO research. This makes electric cooking really healthier.”
Unhealthy items can be kept in a matter of hours. A gas hood works well only if it extracts outside, but this is not the case in half of households. “This recycling cap is specifically meant for scents,” Jacobs says. “Particulate matter is simply brought back into the house. Carbon filters capture some of the nitrogen dioxide that is created when cooking on gas, but this filter is already saturated after twenty days.”
Three out of four Dutch people don’t know that cooking is bad for air quality, according to research by air purifier manufacturer Blueair. However, the market for air purifiers is increasing. “Our air purifiers’ filters use activated carbon,” explains Alexander Provins of Blueair. Activated carbon consists of hundreds of grains to remove odors, smoke and particulates from indoor air, leaving the air in your kitchen clean and smelling fresh.
Most models themselves detect when the air quality is deteriorating and then pick up the speed. “This keeps the air quality in the house at a good level.” Thanks to a combination of carbon and a HEPA filter, the devices capture more than 99 percent of particulate matter.
Although Jacobs is not opposed to air purifiers, he continues to “put the cart before the horse.” “First pollute the indoor air, then purify it.” So it is better to prevent and dispose of it directly over the stove.
1 Switch to electric cooking. It is preferable to have an energy-saving induction.
2 Use the extractor hood to extract at least 300 cubic meters of air per hour to the outside.
3 If you have trouble recycling, choose an extractor hood with a carbon filter and a fine dust filter. And replace it on time.
4 If you do not have a good extractor hood, turn on the mechanical suction during cooking. To remove 95 percent of pollution, you need to change the volume three times. On the lowest setting, this takes three to six hours. Over an hour on the highest place.
5 Or open the windows for 15 minutes after cooking. Then leave one window open while cooking to avoid “feathers blowing under the hood”.
According to Jacobs, it’s a good idea for people to take action themselves. For example, recycling hoods capture nitrogen oxide only to a limited extent. Stopping the gas is the only solution to that. It is a mystery to me that this is not being used as an excuse to stop gas cooking.”
It also argues in favor of increasing mechanical extraction requirements in new buildings. “And make the exchange abroad.” Technically, there are no barriers. There are even ventilation systems with heat recovery. “They empty 300 cubic meters an hour and they’re quiet.”
Cooking indoors results in high concentrations of particulates. This is a big problem because few people know about it. Recirculation hoods only filter odors. A good air purifier captures more than 99 percent of particulate matter. But nothing can withstand the consequences of cooking on gas. The only solution to this is to switch to induction.
Listen to the cooking and knowledge podcast below:
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