According to a new study, kitchens can contain air that is three times more polluted than what you breathe on a busy city street.
What can you do to improve the indoor air quality in your kitchen? Here is a list of do’s and don’ts.
Turn on ventilation fans while cooking.
Cooking generates a lot of heat, steam, and odors that need to be ventilated. Ventilation fans help suck in cooking fumes, which can be dangerous at high concentrations. It is easier for these fans to ventilate the air while you’re cooking, versus after the gases disperse throughout your kitchen.
Ventilation fans can also help relieve your air conditioner. A typical home stove generates 7,000 BTUs of heat per burner, on average. That’s 28,000 BTUs when four burners are in use. Most residential room air conditioners have cooling capacities that range from about 6,000 BTUs to 12,000 BTUs per hour. So when you’re cooking an elaborate dinner, your AC is working just as hard as you are!
Clean or replace filters in your ventilation system.
This ensures it is properly ventilating cooking gases and odors. While the exact lifespan of a filter depends on your cooking habits, they generally need to be changed every 6 months or so.
Choose nontoxic cleaners on your counters, refrigerator, oven, and other appliances.
Most store-bought cleaners are full of harmful chemicals. Using oven sprays can leave your home smelling like chemicals for days. Use a nontoxic cleaner (like Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyers), or make your own! Here’s a great recipe:
Coat the inside of your appliance with a paste made from water and baking soda. Let stand overnight. Scrub away with a sponge the next morning, and make it spotless with a moist cloth.
Cook on back burners when using a gas stove.
A study at the Missouri University of Science and Technology showed that range hoods can reduce pollutants by 50% when you use the back burners. They were not particularly effective for the front burners.
Cook outside when possible.
This is another way to reduce heat buildup when cooking. Grilling outside is a great summer activity, and it can actually lower your energy bill. By reducing the amount of heat created by cooking inside, outdoor cooking allows you to cut back on using your air conditioner.
Use non-stick cookware.
Most non-stick cookware is coated with Teflon, or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) – a class of plastics deemed carcinogenic by the EPA in 2005. At high temperatures, these plastics break down and can release toxins so powerful they have been known to kill pet birds.
Since the 1950s, formaldehyde has been the basic material for artificial glues used in particle boards and plywood. An estimated 85% of all wood materials have adhesives containing formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is also a carcinogen, and exposure can increase your sensitivity to other irritants.
The only way to know if you’re at risk for formaldehyde exposure is to test your air. Watch our video on formaldehyde testing to find out more.
Depend on kitchen range hoods to properly vent your gas stove.
Gas ranges generate nitrogen dioxide and other indoor air pollutants. Kitchen range hoods aren’t capable of filtering out these kinds of harmful pollutants on their own. An air purifier such as the IQAir Multigas GC can make a difference by filtering volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other pollutants from the air.
Remember our post about how chlorine combines with water and organics to create harmful pollutants? Well, most bleach products are made up of mostly chlorine and water. These can mix together to form trihalomethanes (also called haloforms), which are carcinogenic. Bleach can also increase allergy and asthma symptoms, wheezing, and noncardiogenic pulmonary edema.
Instead of bleach, make your own disinfectant using white vinegar and tea tree oil. For tough spots, food or dirt, combine baking soda and vinegar to clean effectively without corrosion.
How do you keep the air in your kitchen clean and healthy?