We tend to take for granted the clean air that has been provided to us due to strict standards set by the EPA. A component of the pollution that must be controlled is called particulate matter (PM), small particles that exist in the air in solid or liquid form. At high levels, these particles can have varying health impacts depending on the size; PM 2.5 refers to particles that are smaller than 2.5 micrometers, and PM 10 refers to those that are larger but still airborne. These health effects include respiratory and cardiovascular problems, which can lead to early death.
Much has been studied regarding the sources of outdoor particulate matter, but less is known about indoor PM. Through our review of previous literature, we found that the main sources of indoor PM are burning candles/incense, using cleaning products, and cooking. We noticed that although cooking was a known source, not much was known about the exact conditions that produced high levels of PM.
Particulate matter from cooking especially is by nature difficult to avoid, after all, you have to be in the kitchen in order for anything to get done. This simple fact means that even if you are aware that you are creating high PM levels, it is impossible to escape unless you have a way to lower the levels at the same time. In our investigation, we also searched for an answer to this question.
To begin our experiment, we first focused on answering the question of what home conditions may have an effect on PM conditions while we conducted a cooking trial. We tested the factors of having a window open, the air conditioner on, and if you were cooking meat or vegetable. The factor that had the largest impact was having a window open. In Figure 1, it is evident that while a cooking event was occurring, with the window open, no rise in PM concentration is present. Contrasted with Figure 2, in which the AC was on but the window was closed, there is clearly a relationship between PM values and the window being opened.
Figure 1. A graph showing the trend in PM values with the AC off and the window open, cooking a vegetable at 350 F.
Figure 2. A graph showing the trend in PM values with the AC on and the window closed, cooking a vegetable at 350 F.
From these trials, we were able to say that our evidence supported the hypothesis that having a window open while cooking would result in lower PM values than if it was closed. In fact, the trial that we ran showed that the PM didn’t even rise at all during the cooking event. This is a vital and simple method that anyone can use in order to limit their exposure to high levels of PM. Unanswered questions from our experiment regard the presence of a difference in PM levels that result from cooking a meat or a vegetable.
Hu, Tianchao, Singer, Brett C., and Logue, Jennifer M. Compilation of Published PM2.5 Emission Rates for Cooking, Candles and Incense for Use in Modeling of Exposures in Residences. United States: N. p., 2012. Web. doi:10.2172/1172959.
Kim, Ki-Hyun, et al. “AA Review on the Human Health Impact of Airborne Particulate Matter.” Environmental International , 2015.