I'm having trouble finding the right search terms so perhaps I am just missing some obvious resources. Sorry if that's the case.

It is sometimes brought up that cooking causes pollution. I learned of this only recently and was quite surprised, and you also seem to need a rather large airflow to actually catch most of it. But what I can't find is what causes this. Is it my pan giving off microscopic amounts of Teflon? Is it the food being prepared that you're inhaling parts of? Is it the stove giving off particles as it heats up to hundreds of degrees on your favorite temperature unit?

The reason for asking is twofold:

  • I could perhaps avoid the biggest source of the pollution to begin with, and
  • the kitchen hood is fairly loud, both inside and outside (case in point: I'm writing this question at 5:05AM and I tend to get hungry from time to time; add German noise rules et voila...). Not unnecessarily turning it on full blast would be nice.

One resource I did find says:

Electric stoves may not produce as much air pollution as their gas-powered counterparts, but [still a lot.] [F]rying tortillas and stir-frying on an electric stove actually produced significantly higher concentrations of particulate matter than they did when performed on a gas stove.

This suggests at least two sources:

  • The burning of gas itself when you have a gas stove (I don't)
  • Burning foodstuffs, be that intentionally (browning your meat in the pan) or unintentionally (spills on the hot stove)

Other parts of the resource are less clear: "Meat dishes produce different atmospheric chemistry than vegetarian dishes" could suggest that meat is worse than plants or suggest that vegetarian dishes are prepared with more boiling vegetables in a pot (usually plain metal + ≤100°C) and less frying or browning in a pan (usually Teflon + burning). Or all of the above or any combination. It's all a bit confusing.

What are the biggest sources of air pollution (particulates, toxic gases... any invisible harmful airborne stuff) when cooking? Particularly on an electric stove, but I expect the differences are mostly limited to whatever gas you burn and things accidentally landing next to the pan/pot so let's generalize the question to include the major kitchen stove types.

  • 3
    This just sounds like you've found something online you think you ought to worry about, & are now determined to extract the maximum amount of worry out of it. I don't see this question as a good fit for this stack, but I can't think of a solid reason to vote to close it.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 25, 2020 at 11:57

1 Answer 1


Have you looked at the actual study that you quoted from the quote in the article? It goes into a lot of detail of the pollutants released and the way they tested.


"The amount of food cooked was larger than would be typical in a residential setting, and the duration of cooking was generally longer than typical in order to obtain sufficient pollutant mass for analysis."

Also, the highest levels for the pollutants was during the 5 hour self cleaning cycle on the oven, which is usually recommended to be performed with proper ventilation for safety to begin with.

The other higher levels appeared to be when they burned food and over heated oil. Reading just a little bit it appears the majority of the pollutants are from oven gasses, particulate matter of several sizes while stovetop cooking, and off gasses from the chemical reaction of the food being heated up, all things that are basically unavoidable if you're going to cook.

As far as the oven ventilation,

"Tests with the range hood exhaust and range hood side shields resulted in lower concentrations of some of the air contaminants, but there was not a dramatic reduction in indoor air pollutant concentrations."

I would imagine the only things you can do are;

  1. Don't burn food or heat up oil too hot
  2. Don't cook for very long periods of time in a small kitchen with poor ventilation.
  3. Use proper ventilation such as a window and if very concerned some kind of fan blowing air out of the window
  4. Wear a particulate filter mask
  5. Don't cook

Personally, I understand it may be putting off some pollution, it would have to be. But I don't know if cooking in a home for a regular amount of people is putting off enough pollution, with long enough exposure, that it would require anything more than maybe opening a window. Everything cites the same study linked above, they were cooking more food for longer than what you and I would be doing.

It's just one of those things, chemical reactions create pollution, cooking is very often just a series of purposeful chemical reactions. You can't do one without having the other, best you can do is open a window and hope you don't get hit by a car on the way to work.

The study goes into a lot of detail, you can probably find most of your answers there.

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