Factsheet: Cooking and indoor air quality

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Organization: Health Canada

Date published: 2018

Background

Cooking activities can affect indoor air quality, which may have an impact on your health. This factsheet presents strategies to help reduce pollutant levels resulting from cooking and reduce the risk of exposure.

What cooking activities produce pollutants?

Whether you cook on a gas or an electric stove, cooking creates particulate matter (PM). PM are small particles of cooked food, fat or oil that may become airborne when you fry, deep-fry, roast, broil, sauté, toast, bake, or burn food.

A Health Canada study has shown that PM levels can be 65 times higher than background levels following cooking activitiesFootnote 1. Steaming, boiling or using a microwave produces fewer particles. In addition, using a gas stove can also generate combustion by-products such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and carbon monoxide (CO).

Cooking activities can also produce excessive water vapour, increasing the amount of moisture in the air, which can lead to mould growth.

What are the potential health effects of exposure to cooking-related pollutants?

People with existing heart and lung conditions (including asthma), young children, and older adults tend to be more susceptible to the adverse health effects of PM, NO2 and CO.

Numerous health effects have been shown to result from exposure to these pollutants that can be generated during cooking, including:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, throat;
  • Respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath;
  • Headache, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms; and
  • Worsening of lung and heart conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease. 

How can you reduce your risk?

The use of a range hood exhaust fan when cooking can reduce the levels of cooking-related pollutants such as PM, NO2, CO, and water vapour. 

Use your range hood exhaust fan, preferably on the high setting, when cooking. Running a range hood exhaust on high (300 cubic feet/minute) during cooking can reduce exposure to cooking-related pollutants by more than 80% when compared to slower speedsFootnote 1Footnote 2.

It is recommended that any range hood exhaust fan fully extend over the stove burners to ensure maximum effectivenessFootnote 1.

If you do not have a range hood exhaust fan, you may want to consider installing one or opening a window close by to help remove the pollutants from the home.

Additional steps can be taken to reduce exposure to pollutants from cooking, such as:

  • using back burners instead of front burners;
  • opening windows while cooking; and
  • running the fan in your furnace or ventilation system, if available.

Finally, Health Canada recommends that you install and maintain at least one CO alarm in your home.

Where do I go for more information?

To learn more about air quality and health, please visit our website at Air quality and health or contact us at HC.air.SC@canada.ca.

References

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Sun, Wallace, Dobbin, You, Kulka, Shin, St-Jean, Aubin and Singer. 2018 Effect of venting range hood flow rate on size-resolved ultrafine particle concentrations from gas stove cooking. AS&T. published online. DOI:10.1080/02786826.2018.1524572.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Dobbin, Sun, Wallace, Kulka, You, Shin, Aubin, St-Jean and Singer. 2018 The benefit of kitchen exhaust fan use after cooking - an experimental assessment. Building and Environment, 135: 286-296.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

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