A message to designers, homeowners and policymakers adopting open kitchen concept apartment

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Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, February 2019, Volume 2, #46

The adoption of an open kitchen concept apartment is gaining popularity among designers, homeowners, and policymakers. The main reason is usually down to a perceived large space. To reduce the smell that comes with cooking activities in the kitchen, building occupants typically rely on the exhaust hood to do the job. In some instance, building occupants are forced to open windows, sometimes when the air-conditioning system is on, to reduce the smell in the open concept apartment.

Apart from the inconvenience caused by cooking smells, the health of the building occupants could also be compromised. Why? Cooking activities generate nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxides, semi-voltaic organic compounds, particulate matters (PM). Example SVOCs generated by cooking activities are the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Evidence in the literature suggests that they are carcinogenic and can damage human organs when exposure is high. Pollutants generated from cooking activities could also participate in indoor air chemistry. The by-products of indoor air chemistry and health implications are well documented in the literature. The risk of getting chemically contaminated ultrafine particles and PM2.5 into building occupants’ blood through inhalation and or dermal uptake is higher than other pollutants because they can linger in the air for a more extended period after cooking and exhaust hood is turned off. Exposures to NO2 and CO have respiratory, sensory, and neurological discomfort implications.

So is it appropriate to sacrifice human health and well-being for the sake of having a perceived large space? Is it appropriate to rely on exhaust hood to improve indoor air quality? To better appreciate the word “appropriate,” designers, homeowners, and policymakers should consider the questions in the attached cartoon.

46_Exhausthood_IAC 46

Do you want to know more about exhaust hood and indoor air quality? Read the Singer et al. (2012) paper.

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