The scariest thing in this house is probably the toaster : the hidden air pollution in our home

…it’s safe to say that levels of many traditional air pollutants are lower indoors—until you do something like cook a stir-fry, at which point some of those levels will briefly reach peaks that are ten times the maximum observed outdoors. Other, more complex organic molecules seem to always be more plentiful indoors. There’s also evidence that outdoor particles can get coated with gases when they come indoors, which could potentially provide a different pathway for them to penetrate your lungs.

(Illustration by Daniel Savage from the New Yorker)


Open a window, turn on exhaust fan, open skylights, turn on ceiling fan? Otherwise, cook outside😉.


I didn’t want to go there when I saw this in my news feed.

Our house was a huge mistake when we bought it back in '82. Continues to be a hole we pour money in to today. Amazing how cavalier building inspectors were in granting occupancy approvals on new homes in the 1950s. 900 square foot–very tired and ill used homes are consistently listed for $150,000 - $180,000 on my block today. All of 'em have issues that are historic, and not related to current indoor pollution concerns. As the saying goes: buyer beware.

Fascinating, @naf. As someone with both year-round allergies and seasonal allergies, air quality is high on my list. I noticed that cooking bacon in a pan on the stove, for example, distressed the breathing of my late mother who had asthma. We cooked bacon in the oven after that.

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Sorry to hear this. That’s what I think of when I hear the word “house” though. :wink: Ours is approaching 100. Solidarity.

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I skimmed the article because I was looking for the scientific/informative parts, but couldn’t find anything more specific than pollutants can build up as you’re cooking your Thanksgiving dinner.

So I’m still left with the question of – what exactly is the pollution and why is it unhealthy? I get that their are VOFs and they vary in terms in how it might impact your health, but couldn’t find anything more specific than that. Humans have lived indoors for centuries now, and we’ve always cooked. What’s making this a more serious issue now than before, or is it?

@RedJim and @tomatotomato – I live in an older house too. Mine isn’t too bad at almost 80, but plenty of houses in my neighborhood are around 100 or more. I understand the appeal of a new house, but I still believe that older houses tend to have better bones (as long as they’ve been maintained well). My house can definitely use a few more upgrades, but I did go through a big reno a few years back that helped transform my kitchens and bathrooms into much more usable space and it made a huge difference.

I recently did allergy testing to find the source of my year-round allergies and learned a few things (dispelled a few myths I had too) and finally have been living with less sinus issues than I have been for decades. I can’t recommend that process enough for anyone who really suffers from year-round allergies.


Amen to this. I did the same several years back and it’s been life-changing. My experience is that this older house is actually better for me, allergy wise, on the whole. Radiators are easier for me to clean than baseboards were—those tiny fins get dusty!—and the exhaust fan/kitchen is modern.

Mindfulness about what makes my allergies flare is essential. You too?

I’m also unsure about the article’s conclusions—more that we have to pay attention to what we’re breathing. That’s my perspective being born into a family with respiratory challenges.

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Yes! And it was a great relief that my cats are off the hook. I would have kept my cats even if an allergy to them were confirmed, but I really thought they were part of the cause and didn’t pay attention to anything else. Turns out it was dust mites! I’ve made some adjustments to keep dust mites in check and this has been super helpful.

I also thought I was allergic to ragweed and I blamed them for my late summer allergies. Nope – not even a hair of a reaction. Whoops – sorry, ragweed.


Dust mites are enemy #1 for me too.

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My science experiment of one:
I live in Chiang Mai and we have seasonal air pollution that just recently peaked. I have an air purifier and a monitor in my house. With the purifier on, the pollution level (PM 2.5) in my house is usually in the healthy range, under 50 AQI.
I was sauteing salmon the other night and the monitor which had been reading right around 50, spiked to over 300, the “hazardous” range , while I was cooking. My wife shut the machine off, thinking it had malfunctioned. we quickly figured out that it was cooking that made the air inside as bad as the horrendous air outside.
i wonder how this correlates to the air in any restaurant? I may have to start bringing a portable monitor with me.

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Now, I’m wondering I should get one too for my home. As for me, my house has a default, there is no air evacuation outlet for my hood because it was forbidden for one side of the house, and the kitchen is in that area. I use induction and oven to cook, in winter I have a tendency to not open the window, unlike in the past with gas, I would open window overtime I cooked.

About restaurants, I think people working in restaurant can suffer health consequences working in kitchen.

Restaurants tend to have pretty powerful extraction hoods. Some even have make-up air systems, which blow fresh air back into the kitchen to balance out the huge amount of air being sucked out.

OTOH, if you’re working the grill all night you’re probably still inhaling a lot of smoke, and it’s not uncommon for bakers to develop respiratory issues from all the flour particles in the air.

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I bought a few desktop air filter appliances for both floor levels and it has helped keep the house cleaner. Aside from kitchen pollution if you run your fireplace air filters are key.

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That works if you have local ordinances and they’re enforced. At dinner last night they had to open the door to let the smoke out. I’m sure the PM 2.5 was in the unmeasurable range.

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