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Indoor Air Quality and Cooking: 10 Tips on How to Reduce Air Pollution in Your Home

Cooking at home is healthier than living off takeouts. However, preparing your meals comes with its own hazards — one of which is air pollution. It’s one of the reasons indoor air quality is poorer than the outside, even in densely populated and industrialized locations.

If you want to eat healthy and breathe fresh air, follow these 10 tips.

Cook Outside

Lengthy kitchen activities involving high temperatures emit tons of air contaminants. If you can’t avoid them, do them outside.

Build an outdoor kitchenette when you have extra space. Modular outdoor kitchen components make this project less disruptive. Ideally, you should have four zones — prep, cooking, plating and serving, and entertainment. The last one is the least important, so it can be dispensable.

Put a Premium on Ventilation

You can go mechanical, natural or a combination of the two.

If you take the mechanical route, you can choose from ducted, ductless and convertible range hoods. Ducted ones expel air hazards through wall or ceiling ductwork. Ductless hoods filter out cooking fumes and recirculate the air into the kitchen. Convertible units are hybrid with external venting and air recirculation functionalities.

Smart range hood versions are now available. These advanced units automatically clean the air when their sensors detect pollutants. Exhaust fans are also effective mechanical ventilators. They need a hole in the kitchen wall or ceiling, though.

Regarding natural ventilators, hinged exterior doors and casement windows are the best. They open completely, maximizing openings’ length and width to purify indoor air when cooking. For optimal results, aim for cross-ventilation to leverage the natural movement of outdoor air to eject exhaust gasses efficiently.

If you have mechanical and natural ventilators in the kitchen, use them as you see fit to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Prioritize the Back Burner

Vent hoods generally suck air from the stove’s back. That’s why emissions from pots and pans on the back burner tend to stay in the air less.

Mind the Cooking Temperature

High-heat cooking has various downsides, including enormous amounts of harmful emissions. Fry, grill and char food less, especially indoors. Compared to water-based cooking methods, various frying styles and grilling send more fine particulate matter, particularly fatty foods, into the air.

Isolate the Kitchen

Close the doors to other spaces when cooking to limit the spread of contaminants. Air pollutants can still reach closed-off rooms through gaps but are unlikely to accumulate to unsafe levels to protect your family members who may be sensitive to them.

If you have loved ones who stay away from the kitchen to avoid experiencing blurred vision or eye irritation, limit combustion emissions in one area to vent them to the outside more easily.

Heat With Microwave

Microwaves are non-combustion appliances. If you use one to pre-heat food or cook meals entirely, your family can breathe in fewer air pollutants.

Wipe Spillage Immediately

If you need one more reason to clean up spills immediately, it’s to keep your indoor air quality pristine. Letting spilled sauce, meat or a piece of bread sit idly inside or on a cooking appliance is allowing it to burn inadvertently. Burnt foods produce unhealthy amounts of particulates.

Rethink Your Cooking Fuel

Any fuel you burn emits harmful exhaust gasses. Cooking fuels can even pollute indoor air in storage.

Manufactured products can emit more than 10,000 hazardous chemicals just by existing. For example, keeping wood pellets in bulk in a confined space can increase your home’s concentrations of volatile organic carbons, methane, carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide.

Moreover, natural gas or propane leakage can result in CO production. CO is a silent killer, so having a kitchen appliance that runs on either fuel can make indoor air toxic.

Electricity is the safest cooking fuel. Electric appliances, like induction stovetops, only indirectly affect indoor air quality by using them to cook harmful particle-emitting food items, like tortillas.

Give Your Self-Cleaning Oven Room

An oven’s self-cleaning cycle uses up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit to powder soil and food spillage for easy cleanup. It’s good news for the chore-averse but a bad one for the health-conscious. This operation involves combustion, so it generates exhaust fumes, especially smoke. If you’ve been around your oven when it cleans itself, you may have noticed an odor from it, too.

If you must use it even if it’s highly polluting, maximize your kitchen’s ventilation capacity. Run your hood on high or leave nearby windows open throughout the cycle. Go and stay outside the house until it’s over for good measure.

Buy Air Pollution Monitors

These devices can detect air contaminants your senses can’t. They’re helpful because poisonous pollutants can be invisible and odorless.

The most popular kind is CO alarms. These gadgets are so useful many jurisdictions require them in renovated and newly constructed properties. The problem is they’re one-trick ponies. They can do exactly what they say on the tin — but nothing more. CO is just one of many threats you must think about when cooking.

Alternatively, go with all-in-one indoor air quality monitoring devices. Designed to sense various contaminants, they can alert you about more issues. Despite their name, they can’t detect everything. Know what environmental threats your prospective product can pick up and what it can’t to set your expectations accordingly.

Enjoy High Indoor Air Quality When Cooking

Worrying about the air you breathe shouldn’t be one of your worries when cooking — yet it is. Thankfully, you can make pollutants less of a concern with the above tips.

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