Scientists Claim Aroma of Food Damages Air Quality

A study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that cooking pollutes the air.

According to researchers, human-caused volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released through cooking activities and negatively affect air quality.

“If there’s one thing the researchers at NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory (CSL) have learned in their multi-year deep dive investigation into the unrecognized and underappreciated sources of urban air pollution, it’s this: If you can smell it, there’s a good chance it’s impacting air quality,” NOAA wrote in a discussion of the study.

The study focused on three cities: Los Angeles, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Boulder, Colorado.

Researchers determined that 50% of the human-caused VOC in downtown Las Vegas was due to chemical products. The other half was split between traffic and cooking emissions.

“[It is estimated that cooking emissions represent as much as 20% of the anthropogenic VOCs emitted to the atmosphere in Las Vegas, NV,” the study says. “It is expected that the relative importance of cooking emissions in other cities will vary based on the regional restaurant density and the magnitude of other anthropogenic emissions, including VCPs and mobile sources.”

The VOCs emitted from cooking activities are “reactive and may contribute to the formation of ozone, secondary organic aerosol, and other pollutants such as peroxyacyl nitrates,” the authors wrote.

While some researchers believe cooking contributes to climate change, others believe human breathing is responsible for global warming.

A study in the British journal PLOS One said, “Exhaled human breath can contain small, elevated concentrations of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), both of which contribute to global warming.”

Despite breathing contributing to less than 1% of emissions, the scientists “would urge caution in the assumption that emissions from humans are negligible.”

“We report only emissions in breath in this study, and flatus emissions are likely to increase these values significantly, though no literature characterises these emissions for people in the UK. Assuming that livestock and other wild animals also exhale emissions of N2O, there may still be a small but significant unaccounted for source of N2O emissions in the UK, which could account for more than 1% of national-scale emissions,” they added.