15 June 2012
Kitchens worse than city centers for pollutants
by Will Parker
Examining indoor pollutant levels from gas and electric cookers, University of Sheffield (UK) researchers found that gas kitchens had pollutant concentrations "well above" the levels set by the government as its objective for outdoor air quality. The findings appear in the Journal of Indoor and Built Environment.
The work is based on air quality measurements taken in a small number of flats and houses in both rural and city settings. Air samples were taken outside and inside the properties, from each kitchen, over a four-week period. The researchers found that nitrogen dioxide levels in the kitchen of a city-center flat with a gas cooker were three times higher than the concentrations measured outside the property and well above those recommended in UK Indoor Air Quality Guidance.
In the case of particulate pollutants (solid particles small enough to penetrate into the lungs), the average particle concentrations measured by the research team in the kitchens with gas cookers were higher than the levels set by the government as its objective for outdoor air quality in London.
"Concerns about air quality tend to focus on what we breathe in outdoors [but] we spend 90 per cent of our time indoors and work hard to make our homes warm, secure and comfortable, but we rarely think about the pollution we might be breathing in," said Professor Vida Sharifi, who led the research. "Energy is just one source of indoor pollution, but it is a significant one. And as we make our homes more airtight to reduce heating costs, we are likely to be exposed to higher levels of indoor pollution. There is very little data on emission rates from different appliances or acceptable standards on indoor pollutants. Although ours was just a small study, it highlights the need for more research to determine the impact of changing housing and lifestyles on our indoor air quality."
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Source: University of Sheffield