Burnt toast is more toxic than traffic fumes

Credit: News Field

Toasting bread can expose people to more pollution than standing at a busy road junction, a study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that toasters send toxic particles into the air as soon as they are switched on. According to experts, the safest way to toast bread is to ‘go for gold’ rather than burn it.

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When bread is moderately toasted, meaning when it turns golden brown, the concentration of dust particles in the surrounding air is between 300 and 400 micrograms per cubic metre.

Credit: News Field

‘When you make toast, the heating element starts warming up the debris and gunk in the toaster which includes oils,’ said the researcher Marina Vanche. ‘Add to that the bread itself — it’s going to emit a range of things.’

Toasting two slices of bread could cause twice as much air pollution as seen in the centre of London for 15 to 20 minutes, which is three times the World health Organisation’s safety limit.

‘We hear a lot in media about global pollution causing climate change but tend to think of things like cars and buses and manufacturing processes. How often do we stop to think about other everyday toxins we allow into our homes?’ said Susan Stedman Beard from Clacton-on-Sea.

The dangers of burning toast emerged from an experiment, in which scientists assessed how air quality changed during everyday activities such as cooking and cleaning.

Studies found when bread is moderately toasted, meaning when it turns golden brown, the concentration of dust particles in the surrounding air is between 300 and 400 micrograms per cubic metre. This level of air pollution is far above the limits set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), according to which air should contain no more than 25 micrograms of fine particulates per cubic metre.

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The safest way to toast bread is to ‘go for gold’ rather than burn it.

Credit: News Field

‘I feel surprised by this study, but mainly because I don’t think of cooking food as a source of pollution. Having said that, I can see the logic of this – ultimatum to cook we use fossil fuels in some way or another either for directly cooking by fire or via a power station for an oven or toaster, the same as if we were burning those fossil fuels to run our vehicles,’ said Victoria Sanderson, a former Law and Philosophy graduate at the University of Essex.

According to her, this study might make people more ‘mindful’ while cooking, but ‘unless there is far more publicity and a big and/or continuous campaign for change, most people will just carry on regardless, because they like their bread toasted.’

When toast is allowed to turn dark brown, or if its bits turn black, then the level of particles increases to 3,000-4,000 micrograms per cubic metre, which is up to more than 150 times the WHO limit.

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Toasting two slices of bread could cause twice as much air pollution as seen in the centre of London for 15 to 20 minutes

Credit: News Field

The study concluded that apart from toasting, activities such as frying and roasting could also be toxic. After cooking a roast turkey, experts found out that the levels of pollution were 13 times higher than the levels of pollution caused by traffic in central London.

Scented candles, wood-burning stoves and gas cookers are among other sources of indoor pollution. Researchers concluded that products such as shampoo, perfume and different sprays and cleaning liquids release particles, which are raising the risk of heart diseases and triggering asthma in children.

‘We become trapped with the bad air in our homes where we believe we are safe. I for one took a while to realise my tumble dryer was making me ill,‘ said Ellamy  Fox Fraser from Clacton-on-Sea.’

According to reports of the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, more than 40,000 people in the UK die annually from air pollution.

 

 

 

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