Pollution from cooking remains in atmosphere for longer than we think

Particulate emissions from cooking stay in the atmosphere for longer than previously thought, making a prolonged contribution to poor air quality and human health, according to a new study from the University of Birmingham.

Cooking emissions account for up to 10 per cent of particulate pollution in the UK and are able to survive in the atmosphere over several days, rather than being broken up and dispersed as previously thought.

A team from the University of Birmingham showed how these fatty acid molecules react with molecules found naturally in the earth’s atmosphere. During the reaction process, a coating, or crust is formed around the outside of the particle that protects the fatty acid inside from gases such as ozone which would otherwise break up the particles, explains a statement.

The ability of these particles to remain in the atmosphere may alter the amount of rainfall, and also the amount of sunlight that is either reflected by cloud cover or absorbed by the earth – all of which could contribute to temperature changes.

In addition, as the cooking emission particles form their protective layer they can also incorporate other pollutant particles, including those known to be harmful to health such as carcinogens from diesel engine emissions.

Lead author, Dr Christian Pfrang, said: “These emissions (…) make up a significant proportion of air pollution in cities, in particular of small particles that can be inhaled known as PM2.5 particles. In London it accounts for around 10 per cent of those particles, but in some of the world’s megacities for example in China it can be as much as 22 per cent with recent measurements in Hong Kong indicating a proportion of up to 39%.”

Image credit: Republica via Pixabay

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