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Nanoparticles Generated by Kitchen Appliances are Major Contributors to Chronic Illnesses

By Jamson S. Lwebuga-Mukasa, MD, PhD.
The Green Kitchen Institute

Often building strategies designed to conserve energy result in homes and public buildings that contribute to unintended, adverse health effects that may account for a myriad of illnesses – particularly chronic illnesses such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations, and pulmonary fibrosis. The burden of these chronic diseases contributes to high health costs and ill health. Particulates released during cooking can cause intense airway inflammation that also travels to many organs and may contribute to multi-organ diseases.

We administered a questionnaire to study participants who all indicated that they only turned on the stove exhaust fan when they were cooking food with a strong smell such as fish, or smelled smoke caused by burnt food. Many homes had kitchens with stoves that were not vented to the outside.

Particulates and gases in homes were measured using WolfPack (GrayWolf, CT) equipped with TG-25, GrayWolf particle counter and P-Trak (TSI). We measured concentrations of particulates and gases in the 23 kitchens at baseline, for 15 minutes, following turning on of gas or electrical stoves (without cooking any food) while the exhaust vents were off. Concentrations of particulates remained elevated for at least 3 hours after the stoves were switched off.

We found that in all cases nanoparticles were consistently elevated while concentrations of particulates 1 micrometer and higher were variable, concentrations of nanoparticles measuring 20 nm to 1 micrometer were consistently elevated to 250,000 to over 500,000 particles per cubic centimeter. These concentration levels could be reduced to 60% if a stove fan was turned on when the stove was turned on. Levels of particulates were reduced to 10% when an Austin air cleaner (Austin Air Systems) was used in conjunction with the hood exhausted to the outside.

In a study of seven cases conducted, we have found a reduction in reported symptoms, hospitalizations and emergency department visits of patient who had previous frequent health care utilization compared to when air filtration was implemented.

We conclude that improving ventilation and, when this is not possible, air filtration does reduce exposure to combustion related particulates and gases that contribute to airway inflammation. Greater attention needs to be applied to measures that reduce harmful exposures in the way we design and build homes and public buildings.

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