How Cooking Can Affect Indoor Air Quality

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In the age of COVID-19, indoor air quality is more important than ever before. The National Library of Medicine (NIH) conducted a study that found roughly 90% of Americans spend the majority of their time indoors. Meaning, the quality of the air we breathe inside our homes is of great importance to our health and wellness.  One part of this story that most of us never think about is how cooking can affect indoor air quality. But just because we don’t think about it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Indoor air quality testing reveals a wealth of gaseous byproducts that are emitted into our home’s environment through cooking with gas.  The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) released a report, pouring over two decades’ worth of peer-reviewed studies, about how gas stoves may be exposing Americans to indoor air pollution at levels that are considered illegal by outdoor standards. That should be alarming to everyone. Let’s take a closer look at indoor air quality testing and how cooking can affect indoor air quality

How Cooking Can Affect Indoor Air Quality

Before going any further, let’s not conflate the topic and the findings. Cooking indoors is safe, given certain parameters and being mindfully aware of proper ventilation. Gas stoves use natural gas for fuel. According to the studies and evidence at hand, natural gas companies have fought long and hard to keep regulations on gas stoves to a minimum.  As the debate over cooking pollution rages on, it should be known that cooking of any kind will emit some pollutants into your indoor environment, however trivial. Even ultrafine particles that are measured in nanometers can irritate compromised respiratory systems and upset individuals that are more sensitive to noxious gases.  Use common sense as your guide. If you are cooking indoors, make sure your kitchen is properly ventilated. If your nose is picking up a scent or odor that isn’t familiar, open a window and air out the space. Conducting indoor air quality testing will also help bring clarity to this elusive health hazard. 

Electric Stove vs. Gas Stove

When it comes to cooking on an electric stove vs gas stove, most homeowners don’t take much into consideration outside of aesthetics or personal preference. Simply put, cooking on an electric stove rather than a direct combustion stove (gas stove) will emit fewer pollutants.  One of the most harmful air pollutants is produced during the burning of gas, it’s referred to as fine particulate matter or PM2.5. According to the research, cooking with gas as opposed to electricity produces twice the amount of PM2.5. Using a gas stove also produces pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde, all of which present health risks if not managed properly. Cooking oils, fatty meats, and other ingredients at extreme temperatures, all contribute to pollutants entering your indoor environment. And don’t forget about the self-cleaning setting on both your electric and gas stoves. That too can increase exposure to high levels of pollutants.  At the end of the day, ventilation is our friend. Now that you know a few facts on how cooking can affect indoor air quality, let’s look at how you can improve indoor air quality and properly ventilate your home while cooking. 

Ways to Improve Ventilation In Your Kitchen

As we have previously established, cooking in a kitchen with poor ventilation is not safe for you or your family. The best way to combat the accumulation of indoor toxins in the air is to install a high-efficiency hood above your stove to ventilate the air. You should look for stove hoods that come equipped with high cubic feet per minute (cfm) rating and also a fairly impressive low Sones rating, meaning noise rating. If you cook with a gas stove you should have a licensed technician check for gas leaks and carbon monoxide at least once a year.  If you don’t have a hood for your electric or gas stove, using a wall or ceiling exhaust fan is the second-best thing you can do while cooking indoors. And if the weather permits, open windows in the kitchen to create a nice airflow throughout the home.  When in doubt, schedule an indoor air quality testing service with your local heating & air conditioning and furnace specialist. They will know how to test for indoor gas leaks and ensure that your home is free of noxious gases and health hazards.  

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