In Sudan, a poor young mother caring for her children gets up before dawn. She spends a considerable amount of time finding wood, only to return to her home and prepare their meal. Doing so puts her at risk of kidnapping, rape, and murder.
She can spend hours a day collecting wood to cook the meals, and just as much time in a poorly ventilated makeshift kitchen, breathing in smoke that would be equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.
Image Of A Family In Kitchen Making A Pizza Jimmy Dean Unsplash
According to the World Health Organization, 1.6 million deaths per year are associated with indoor air pollution related to poorly ventilated kitchens, or one death every 20 seconds.
In developed countries, a young mother (even one of low means) has a distinct advantage over women in underdeveloped countries. They have access to cleaner fuels to cook with, have better ventilation, and do not have to spend as much time in a kitchen, breathing in cooking fumes. They also aren’t in physical danger when they go out to collect fuel to cook with.
How kitchen pollutants can negatively affect your health
Despite the apparent differences, mothers at home with their children are still exposed to a significant amount of indoor air pollution.
An Oklahoma resident recently recounted her experience with indoor air pollution and its effect on her small family. Anna said:
My son was five years old and had always been very healthy. Then we moved out of state. Instead of the electric stove we were accustomed to cooking with, we had gas appliances. Before long, we were making routine trips to the emergency room and giving our son breathing treatments twice daily.
We couldn’t understand what would cause such a drastic change in our son’s health in such a short period. Finally, our doctor realized the problem. Our new home was older than our previous one, and the gas appliances and poor ventilation were at the root of his health problems.
Once we upgraded our appliances and installed better ventilation in our kitchen, his health greatly improved. We had our healthy and happy little boy back.
Anna’s experience was not an isolated case. The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study in 2000 discussing the high rate of lung cancer in Taiwanese women, of which only 4% smoked. Here are some of their findings:
Women who cooked three meals a day were almost three times more likely to develop lung cancer
Women who cooked between the ages of 20 and 40 without a range hood were at a significantly higher risk for lung cancer than those who used one.
Women who deep fried the food were at higher risk for developing lung cancer.
Lung cancer risk increased with the number of meals cooked per day.
A range hood could reduce the risk, but not entirely.
This study was done on Taiwanese women living in Taiwan, the Republic of China. These women were not smokers, though it is fair to note that some were exposed to secondhand smoke and are more likely than women in the United States to cook at home. Many of these women live in high rises, which also compounds the effects of cooking with poor ventilation.
How to reduce the exposure to kitchen toxins
Using a range hood significantly affected the number of chemicals these women were exposed to. Still, due to a wide range of effectiveness among different range hoods and the risk of displacement, it could not eliminate the risk.
UC Berkeley has also researched the effects cooking has on the indoor pollution of a home. Their study found that 60% of homes in California that cook at least once a week with a gas stove could exceed legal pollution standards. Unfortunately, these standards only apply outdoors, and no one is held accountable for the levels found in homes.
Among the dangerous pollutants in the home related to cooking were formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide. One significant finding was that range hoods are not all created equally. Price is not always the determining factor, but some were quite ineffective, while others could eliminate up to 95% of pollutants.
Tips on using a range hood
Some tips they offered regarding using a range hood are as follows:
Ensure it ventilates to the exterior, as otherwise, it just circulates the air within the home.
If a range hood isn’t accessible, open a window. That can help mitigate some of the indoor pollutions.
Make sure the range hood is the same size as your stovetop, if not bigger.
Cooking on the back burners can help to reduce air pollution, especially if the range hood does not completely cover the front burners.
The head researcher, Brett Singer, stated, “We want systems that don’t require people to turn things on. When your water heater comes on, the exhaust gases go outside, and you don’t have to flip a switch. It should be the same in the kitchen.”
A kitchen without a range hood can lead to respiratory problems
In addition to creating high levels of pollutants in-home, and being linked to cancer, there is also evidence that not having good ventilation can create respiratory problems.
This study claims that frying fatty foods at high temperatures releases toxic products. Aldehydes and alkanoic acids can cause respiratory distress. That’s not all. Fumes released can also contain carcinogens. Pneumonia is also a risk when there is a lack of ventilation. Pneumonia results from fatty acids irritating the airway, forming fatty acids when frying at high temperatures. In all, this is an additional significant health risk.
If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called What’s cooking? The air quality in your kitchen from the Indoor Chem YouTube Channel.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about air quality.
What impact does air quality have on our health?
Air pollution may harm the health of everyone. When we take in air pollution, it may enter our bloodstream, contribute to coughing or itchy eyes, and cause or exacerbate various respiratory and lung disorders, which can result in hospitalizations, cancer, or even early death.
What impact does air pollution have on families?
Inhabitants of cities with high levels of air pollution are more likely to acquire asthma, pneumonia, and other lower respiratory illnesses. Parents and grandparents are also susceptible to the effects of air pollution. Their bodies become less able to adjust to the impacts of pollution as they age.
In addition to affecting neurodevelopment and cognitive abilities, air pollution may cause asthma and pediatric cancer. Later in life, children who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at a larger risk for chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.
How is air quality measured?
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is used to quantify air quality. The AQI operates somewhat like a thermometer that runs from 0 to 500 degrees. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a similar indicator, except it measures the degree to which air pollution has increased or decreased rather than the temperature.
Air quality is an important factor in the health of our families. Simply having a range hood in the house isn’t enough. It has to be used. Don’t allow noise or other distractions to prevent you from using a range hood. With the open floor plans that have become more common in developed countries, proper ventilation is more important than ever. Not only to the cook’s health but also to the entire family’s health.
A range hood is a kitchen appliance that helps filter or removes air.
Every kitchen should have a range hood.
Owning a range hood can help keep your kitchen clean.
A range hood will protect your lungs and keep your family safe.
So, do you have a range hood in your home? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on kitchen ventilation. Thanks for reading, and stay safe.
Hey there! My name is Roger, and I've been selling range hoods for over six years. I now run this blog all about range hoods and kitchen ventilation! If you're looking for a new range hood for your kitchen, this is the place for you.
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