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What's Cookin'? It Could Be Air Pollution

Yummy commercial food smells contain noxious gases, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- The enticing aromas that restaurants emit are actually a type of air pollution that could pose a risk to your health and the environment, U.S. researchers report.

Gases and tiny solid particles are among the pollutants pumped out by commercial food cooking, according to Deborah Gross, of Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.

"While that mouth-watering smell may whet our appetite, it comes from the emission of smoke from the cooking process into the air that we breathe," she said in a news release.

Gross and a colleague measured the aerosol particles -- solid and liquid droplets -- while cooking food using typical commercial appliances -- pizzas in an oven, steaks in a broiler, and hamburgers on a griddle, clamshell broiler and charcoal fire.

The highest levels of emissions came from fatty foods cooked with high heat, especially with open flames, such as cooking hamburgers on a conveyor broiler. For every 1,000 pounds of hamburger cooked, there were 25 pounds of emissions, they found. For every 1,000 pounds of pizza cooked, there were three pounds of emissions. Noting that certain oils can increase emissions, they said that for every 1,000 pounds of chicken cooked in a wok with peanut oil, there were 45 pounds of emissions.

This type of research may lead to better methods of food-related emission control, the researchers said.

"Not only do these emissions affect air quality, but they contain chemicals that are known carcinogens," Gross said.

The study was to be presented March 23 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlines how you can help make the air cleaner.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Chemical Society, news release, March 23, 2010

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