Kitchen pollution worse than on road

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pollution levels in some residential kitchens are higher than along some traffic-filled roads, a new Sheffield University study has found.

The research, conducted by the University’s Faculty of Engineering, found the air people breathe inside their homes can be three times more polluted than in city centres or along busy roads.

Researchers measured air quality inside and outside three residential buildings powered by different types of energy.

Nitrogen dioxide levels in the kitchen of a city centre flat with a gas cooker were three times higher than the concentrations measured outside the flat and well above those recommended by UK Indoor Air Quality Guidance.

The findings are published in the Journal of Indoor and Built Environment.

Professor Vida Sharifi who led the research said: “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.

“Energy is just one source of indoor pollution, but it is a significant one.

“As we make our homes more airtight to reduce heating costs, we are likely to be exposed to higher levels of indoor pollution, with potential impacts on our health.”

The study, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, compared a rural house with two flats - one in Sheffield city centre and the other next to a busy road.

The rural house had an electric cooker while both flats used gas appliances.

Samples were taken outside and inside over a four week period.

The researchers focused on pollutants known to have a detrimental health impact, particularly on the elderly and those with respiratory or cardiovascular problems.

The pollutants included carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, volatile organic compounds and solid particles small enough to penetrate the lungs.

The average particle concentrations found in the flats’ kitchens were higher than the levels set by the Government as its objective for outdoor air quality in both London and England.

There are currently no guidelines for safe levels of particles in the home.

Professor Sharifi said: “Concerns about air quality tend to focus on what we breathe in outdoors, but as we spend most of our time indoors, we need to understand more about air pollution inside our homes.”