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Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 00:23 GMT
Gas cooking threat to lungs
gas
Gas flames can give off particulate pollution
The fumes given off by gas cooking may have harmful effects on human lung cells, according to research.

The study found that tiny particles of pollution produced when gas is burned seem to have an inflammatory effect when passed over lung cells in the laboratory.

This, in theory, could translate into breathing problems, or worsening problems for those with existing respiratory disease.

The research, carried out at two universities in Scotland, was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The teams collected samples of the PM10s, or pollution particles from both gas and electric cooking.

These were passed over cultures of cells normally found on the surface of the lung.

They found that the tissues released body chemicals called cytokines which are normally associated with causing inflammation in the cells.

Cell inflammation in the lungs can narrow the airways and prevent patients breathing properly.

The study stresses that while in theory there is enough particulate pollution to cause inflammation in the lungs, the risk would be small.

However, pollution experts say there is evidence that indoor pollution such as this contributes greatly to a person's overall intake of such particles.

High concentrations

Dr Mark Niewenhuijsen, from Imperial College London, said: "Sometimes the concentrations in kitchens can be pretty high.

"We're trying to promote further work into this area.

"People should improve the ventilation in their kitchens wherever possible - that should reduce the risk."

He said that in many cases, fumes from the food actually being cooked might cause more problems than the gas being burned.

Particularly bad were the fumes from Chinese cookery.

Dr Neiwenhuijsen said: "One study found that a higher proportion of Chinese women than average suffered from respiratory problems."

Clive Power, director of communications at Energy Watch, a statutory body established by the government to combat fuel poverty and increase gas and electricity safety, said he was very worried by the findings.

"We are very concerned about this research and are now calling for more research into this area.

"At this stage we are not in a position to advise consumers but it is certainly a matter for concern and more research needs to be done," he said.

But British Gas said they are convinced gas is a safe fuel to use provided it is installed and used properly.

A spokesman said: "We would like to reassure customers that where gas appliances are properly installed and regularly serviced gas is very safe to use for cooking and heating fuel."

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See also:

06 May 99 | Medical notes
Exhaust emissions
04 Jan 01 | Health
Pollution 'could cause asthma'
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