Right about now, you’re probably up to your elbows in cooking, and thinking…
Oh no, now I have to worry about Thanksgiving and air pollution? Pleeeeze, not another food issue!
Relax. Take a break from baking, basting, and béarnaising, grab a cup of homemade tea (recipe here), or better yet, a nice glass of organic wine and a square of fairly-traded dark chocolate–sit back and find out why the EPA keeps your family informed and safe…even on Turkey Day.
Turkey, stuffing, baked potatoes, roasted vegetables, gravy, homemade pies and other scrumptious food items are the staples of a Thanksgiving feast. Yum!
What do these delicious holiday treats have to do with air quality?
The Bad News
The the meat of the matter: Besides filling your home with yummy aromatic scents, turkey and other Thanksgiving delectables require an enormous amount of kitchen prep–including the prolonged use of your stove and oven.
The Good News
It’s not your food (whew) that wreaks havoc on air quality; it’s your stove and oven.
3 Reasons Why The EPA Keeps You Safe
Gas and electric ovens have a self-cleaning function. The self-cleaning function works by heating up the oven to a scorching 900 degrees–a measly 300 degrees shy of the temperature of some volcanic lava! All this heat burns off food residue left inside the oven. At 900 degrees, some of the materials used to manufacture stoves can off-gas potentially toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, acrolein, and carbon monoxide. This stuff is nasty and stinky.
1. Formaldehyde is a colorless, odorous gas. According to the EPA, exposure to formaldehyde can trigger asthma attacks, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, skin rashes, severe allergic reactions, nausea, and even cancer.
2. The EPA says Acrolein is formed from the breakdown of certain pollutants in outdoor air, or from burning organic matter including tobacco, or fuels such as gasoline or oil. Short-term inhalation exposure may cause respiratory irritation and congestion. Breathing large amounts damages the lungs and may be fatal.
3. Carbon monoxide is a odorless, colorless, toxic gas that causes oxygen deprivation. The EPA says exposure to low concentrations of carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms, fatigue, chest pain, blurred vision, dizziness, headaches, confusion, and impaired coordination. Exposure to high concentrations of carbon monoxide can be fatal.
Improperly installed and/or inadequately ventilated combustion appliances–gas stoves and ovens emit carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particles into the air. These pollutants can linger for an extended period of time, significantly compromising your family’s health.
According to the EPA, nitrogen dioxide is linked to decreased lung function, bronchitis, and respiratory infections–especially in children. Particles are released into the air from these appliances and lodge in the lungs. They can also attract other contaminants, like the cancer-causing agent radon, and carry them deep into your lungs when you inhale.
EPA To The Rescue
Does this all mean you can never cook at home again? No, Silly. It is scary stuff, but the EPA has collected the information, and continues to disseminate the science to provide tips and suggestions to help you take a deep Thanksgiving breath…and these tips are now in Spanish!
3 Thanksgiving Clean Air Tips (adapted from the EPA and GREENGUARD Environmental Institute)
1. In your oven, avoid using the self-cleaning feature. Just scrub with soap and water.
2. Check your stove top. If the flame is yellow-tipped it indicates the burner is improperly adjusted–this causes increased pollutant emissions. Call your gas company and have the burner adjusted so that the flame tip is blue. The best gas stoves have pilotless ignition. This eliminates the need for a continuously burning pilot light.
3. Make sure your stove has a fan that is properly vented to the outdoors. Run the fan whenever you use your stove. This can significantly reduce exposure to airborne pollutants when cooking.
Thank You, EPA
I shudder to think what future Thanksgiving gatherings would be like if we didn’t have the EPA protecting us from harmful air emissions. Please join me, and thousands of moms and dads in giving thanks (with a huge side of gratitude), to the vigilant and hardworking EPA and all the politicians who support the Clean Air Act.
From the MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE family to yours, we wish you a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING!