The Impact of Clean Commercial Kitchens on Indoor Air Quality

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Published on 2024-05-24

Impact of Clean Commercial Kitchens on Indoor Air Quality

In commercial kitchens, food is prepared and cooked on a large scale, making maintaining high-quality indoor air quality crucial as it impacts the health of staff, customers, students, patients and visitors. Poor air quality in the kitchens of such establishments can result from various pollutants, including particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from cleaning products, and grease vapours— all of which can negatively affect people’s health and well-being.

Maintaining a clean commercial kitchen is essential for reducing harmful contaminants and ensuring compliance with health regulations stipulated in the Food Standard Australia New Zealand.

Importance of Indoor Air Quality in Commercial Kitchens

Indoor air quality refers to the condition of the air within and around a building. In professional kitchens, such as those in restaurants, hospitals or school canteens, air quality is influenced by factors such as the presence of pollutants, temperature, humidity, and the efficiency of ventilation.

When establishment leaders do not adequately manage the conditions of these above factors, they can worsen, leading to poor air quality and costly effects for their establishments. For instance, there could be a build-up of residue in kitchen exhaust systems, reducing their effectiveness and potentially causing malfunctions or increased maintenance costs.

Furthermore, exposure to poor indoor air quality caused by contaminants can lead to acute and chronic health issues and in the worst cases, death. According to the National Library of Medicine, poor indoor air is recognised as the third leading reason for disability-adjusted life years worldwide.

Inhaling particulate matter, VOCs, and carbon monoxide can lead to respiratory irritation and aggravate conditions like asthma, bronchitis and cardiovascular problems. Additionally, exposure to airborne grease, smoke, or chemical fumes can cause skin or eye irritation and may lead to conditions like dermatitis.

Additionally, poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can lead to a negative dining experience, impacting customer satisfaction and the reputation of the food business.

Benefits of Clean Commercial Kitchens on IAQ

Clean commercial kitchens improve indoor air quality, creating a healthy and safe environment for staff and establishment visitors, including patients, students, customers, and hotel guests. High-quality kitchen air reduces staff absenteeism, often caused by health issues related to poor air quality.

A clean kitchen environment reduces contamination risks and fosters a more pleasant dining experience. Additionally, a clean kitchen promotes energy efficiency, ensuring the operational efficiency of kitchen equipment and ventilation systems.

Optimal IAQ helps food service businesses meet regulatory and commercial kitchen standards. For example, Standard 3.2.3 Food Premises and Equipment states that food service businesses must prevent the circulation of dust, dirt, fumes, smoke, and other contaminants in kitchen environments. They must also ensure that ventilation systems maintain adequate air intake to prevent drawing in contaminated air from outside sources.

Key Pollutants Affecting Indoor Air Quality in Commercial Kitchens

In commercial kitchens, various cooking processes, cleaning activities, and combustion appliances occur, all of which can impact the indoor air quality of the kitchens. Professional food establishments must understand the common pollutants and implement measures to mitigate their impact on the health and safety of kitchens in these environments.

Cooking emissions

Cooking is one of the leading causes of indoor air pollutants in commercial kitchens. The emissions include:

  • Smoke

Smoke is generated from grilling, frying, and baking. These processes release particulate smoke such as fine particles, which can penetrate deep into people’s respiratory systems and lead to health problems.

  • Grease

Similarly, the above cooking methods release grease that can settle on kitchen surface areas and equipment. These grease particles pose hygiene issues and can become airborne, contributing to the air quality. Additionally, they pose serious fire hazards.

  • Fumes

Grilling, frying, and baking also release gases such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). High amounts of these compounds can be harmful to people’s health.

Cleaning Chemical Vapours

Cleaning products are essential for maintaining hygiene and kitchen cleanliness. However, they can release harmful vapours into the air. VOCs found in cleaning products, such as benzene and toluene, as well as disinfectants like ammonia and bleach, can emit strong fumes that may lead to respiratory, eye, skin, and neurological issues.

Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Dioxide from Combustion Appliances

Combustion appliances like stoves, ovens, and grills emit harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Even low levels of carbon monoxide can lead to headaches, dizziness, and nausea, while high levels can be fatal. Nitrogen dioxide can irritate the respiratory system, worsening conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.

How Poor Ventilation and Cleaning Practices Affect IAQ

Improper ventilation systems and poor cleaning practices contribute to indoor air pollution, affecting the health and well-being of staff and patrons in kitchen environments and surrounding areas of establishments such as restaurants, hospitals, schools and hotels.

Inadequate ventilation may lead to the build-up of pollutants, resulting in persistent unpleasant odours and high humidity. This can promote the growth of mould and mildew. Therefore, maintaining efficient ventilation systems ensures a safe and comfortable environment.

Additionally, poor cleaning can accumulate particulate matter and VOCs from degraded food and cleaning products. Therefore, it is essential to prioritise rigorous cleaning and regular maintenance to ensure good indoor air quality.

Strategies for Maintaining Clean Commercial Kitchens

Maintaining a clean kitchen requires regular cleaning, following best practices for equipment, safe use of chemicals, and utilising technical solutions.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular cleaning is essential for food establishments to maintain the health and safety of kitchen staff and visitors.

This involves daily, weekly and monthly routines. Daily and weekly tasks include wiping down surfaces to remove grease and food debris, sanitising food preparation surfaces, degreasing the interior of ovens and grills, and cleaning kitchen exhaust hoods and filters.

Monthly routines involve comprehensive inspection and deep cleaning of cooking equipment and ventilation systems by professional experts.

Technological Solutions for Reducing Air Pollution

Technological solutions such as advanced ventilation systems, air purifiers, and grease management systems assist in reducing air pollution to ensure clean, safe, breathable air in and around kitchen environments.

Advanced ventilation systems have features such as variable air volume controls, which can adjust the airflow based on kitchen activity to ensure optimal removal of pollutants. Air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters and activated carbon filters can remove fine particulate matter and VOCs from the air. Additionally, grease management devices prevent grease from entering ventilation and drainage systems, improving indoor air quality.

Tips for Selecting and Safely Using Cleaning Chemicals

Cleaning and sanitising commercial kitchens requires strong chemicals, which can emit harmful vapours and impact the IAQ. However, environmentally friendly and non-toxic cleaning options are available to remove common kitchen contaminants effectively. When choosing from these options, look for certifications such as Green Seal or ECOLOGO, which indicate safer chemical formulations.

Following the manufacturer’s instructions for diluting and applying products is vital to prevent overexposure to harmful vapours. Store chemicals in clearly labelled and secure containers, away from food preparation areas, to avoid accidental contamination. Additionally, staff should be trained on adequately handling cleaning chemicals and emphasise using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks.

Commercial kitchens can ensure an improved IAQ by implementing and following these strategies and tips, resulting in a healthier environment for staff and patrons.

Clean Kitchens, Clear Air – A Winning Combination

Maintaining a clean commercial kitchen ensures optimal indoor air quality. By routinely reducing pollutants through cleaning protocols, using eco-friendly cleaning products and improving ventilation systems, food business owners and managers can significantly improve the health and safety of kitchen staff and patrons.

Ready to improve the air quality of your commercial kitchen? Contact Lotus Commercial today!

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