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The holidays are right around the corner. And when they arrive, they’ll come with your favorite traditions, gatherings with friends and family, and lovely smells wafting from the kitchen.
You’ll likely be cooking meals, hosting guests, and spending a lot of time indoors this holiday season. To ensure a happy and healthy time for all, it’s important to understand how cooking and baking can add volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other particulate matter to the air.
Largest Sources of Air Pollution in the Kitchen
Different cooking methods impact the air in unique ways.
Generally, the higher temperatures you’re using, the more airborne pollutants you’re creating. Deep frying requires you to heat oil to high temperatures, which can create high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and cause eye and lung irritation.
Heat sources also play a large role. Gas-powered stoves and ovens can create carbon monoxide, while electric-powered appliances can release fine particles into the air.
Kitchen Appliances and Air Pollution
The ventilation hood above your stove makes it easy to remove cooking exhaust while you’re frying vegetables or boiling pasta. But it’s not just food particles entering the air while you cook.
According to the California Air Resources Board, stovetops powered by natural gas and propane can produce carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Nitrogen dioxide, a respiratory irritant, can also be produced by a gas burner.
Because there’s pollution both from the high heat of cooking and from the materials used to create the heat, you should turn on some form of ventilation from the moment you start cooking until a few minutes after you’re done.
Baking or roasting at a low heat for long periods of time may not seem like they require ventilation because you don’t actively see smoke or steam. But these cooking processes are creating large amounts of airborne pollutants over a long period of time and require persistent ventilation to minimize health risks.
Note: When you run the cleaning cycle on your oven, you especially need the ventilation turned on. The prolonged high temperatures burn away food waste, creating high amounts of VOCs.
Rarely Used Appliances
The oven and stove are likely the largest sources of airborne pollutants in your home, but you should also be aware of the impact of appliances you may use only occasionally like toasters, deep fryers, and electric skillets.
In storage these devices can collect dust, which will burn away when they’re first turned on, adding particulate matter to the air. (You may recognize a particular smell when turning on these appliances for the first time in a while.)
Additionally, the heating process on all small appliances will create VOCs, so make sure to use ventilation when using cooking devices away from the stove and oven as well.
Ventilation is Key
So how do you achieve the level of ventilation required for safe cooking? Homebuilding expert Corbett Lunsford knows it’s important to consider Indoor Air Quality from day one of the building process. He recommends installing proper ventilation in several places in your home.
“Ventilation is crucial for reducing the concentration of VOCs in your home. You definitely want to ventilate anywhere there is moisture introduced to the home, like the bathrooms and kitchen.”
Ventilating throughout the cooking process is key to maintaining quality air in your home. From a sizzling stovetop to a low-and-slow oven, keeping the ventilation fan on or a window open will help remove the buildup of harmful substances in the air.
You can also consider Aprilaire whole-home ventilation, which works behind the scenes to add fresh air throughout your home. These fresh air ventilation systems dilute and replenish the stale, dangerous air in your home, helping to create a Healthy Air environment for you and your guests.