Attack of the killer spuds: why your Sunday roast is killing you
It's better to boil everything, since indoor pollution from cooking the traditional meal is as bad as in city centres, say scientists
Families should boil rather than roast their Sunday lunch to avoid indoor pollution levels worse than the most toxic cities on Earth, scientists have said.
Research shows that preparing the traditional meal with the windows shut gives pollution readings up to 13 times worse than in central London on a congested day.
The world’s largest gathering of scientists heard on Sunday that pollutants from roasting include PM2.5 particulates, which are especially harmful because they are small enough to embed deep into the lungs and, in some cases, even enter the bloodstream.
Experiments during Thanksgiving in the US found that cooking a full roast turkey dinner pushed readings to peak levels of 200 micrograms per cubic metre (m/cm). The World Health Organisation safety limit for PM2.5 particulates is 10m/cm, although central London averages 15.2.
The research team said roasting vegetables was particularly bad for indoor pollution levels because cooks often aimed for a charring or blackening effect. They singled out Brussels sprouts as especially harmful because of how quickly the vegetables blackened.
While boiling both meat and vegetables would still emit PM2.5, doing so was healthier than roasting for the internal atmosphere of a house, the scientists said.
Professor Marina Vance, who led the research at the University of Colorado Boulder, said: “We were all surprised at the overall levels of particulate matter in the house. It compares to a very polluted city. The joke we’ve been telling ourselves as scientists is boil everything, avoid roasting, but it’s too delicious.”
The researchers cooked a series of meals in a three-bedroom house fitted with pollution monitors. In one experiment, they cooked a dinner with roast turkey, roast Brussels sprouts, boiled sweet potatoes, bread stuffing and cranberry sauce. PM2.5 levels in the house rose to 200m/cm for one hour, more than the 143m/cm recorded on average in Delhi, the sixth-most polluted city in the world.
“We know that inhaling particles, regardless of what they’re made of, is detrimental to health,” said Vance. “Is it equally bad as inhaling exhaust [fumes] from vehicle emissions? That we don’t know yet.”
The research, presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Washington, forms part of a package of new data on the dangers of common household activities for indoor pollution. The team warned of further evidence that chemicals involved in cleaning, as well as flame retardants and even vinyl flooring, contributed to a toxic indoor atmosphere.
The scientists said volatile organic compounds, from products such as shampoo, perfume and cleaning solutions, eventually escaped outside and contributed to ozone and fine particle formation, making up an even greater source of global atmospheric air pollution than cars and trucks.
– © The Daily Telegraph