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Highlights in Chemical Science

News from across RSC Publishing.



Cooking can create harmful indoor pollution


15 February 2006

Claims of serious potential risks associated with Malay, Chinese and Indian cooking methods present worrying news for budding Ken Homs and Madhur Jaffreys. 

"PAHs are linked to breathing problems and lung cancer and could therefore be harmful to chefs and kitchen workers. "

Rajasekhar Balasubramanian and co-workers studied the air around three different food stalls cooking Indian, Chinese and Malay food at the National University of Singapore. They found dangerous levels of fine particulate matter and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were given off at all three stalls, particularly those cooking Chinese and Malay food.

Balasubramanian's group looked at factors such as the amount of food and cooking time and temperature, and concluded that the amount of pollution was related to the temperature used for cooking; deep-fat frying is used extensively in Malay cuisine, quick stir-frying in Chinese and slow simmering for Indian curry dishes.

                     Curry

According to Balasubramanian, heating vegetable oil to high temperatures creates PAHs through evaporation and the cracking of other organic compounds. PAHs are linked to breathing problems and lung cancer and could therefore be harmful to chefs and kitchen workers. They also contribute significantly to the number of organic particles in urban air. 

'Effective protective measures should therefore be undertaken to reduce cooking emissions and/or minimise human exposure to such emissions especially when a large quantity of food is cooked using deep-frying or stir-frying,' said Balasubramanian.

Neil D Withers

References

S W See, S Karthikeyan and R Balasubramanian, J. Environ. Monit., (DOI: 10.1039/b516173h)