Kitchens can be dangerous places – but the dangers may be lurking in unexpected places.
While the hazards potentially posed by sharp knives and boiling water are fairly clear, sometimes mishaps and accidents can occur as a result of less obvious dangers: tiny oil particles, hidden gas and mould are all examples.
Here are 4 hidden kitchen dangers to be aware of:
1. Fine oil droplets
A new US study has found that if combined with a tiny drop of water, ‘explosive’ hot oil droplets from cooking can dissipate in the air as they jump out of the pan.
And while it’s easy enough to clean greasy residue off your kitchen surfaces, the worry is that the oil droplets are so tiny that they’re easily inhaled and could be damaging people’s lungs.
Indoor air pollution kills millions worldwide, and it’s not yet clear whether these tiny oil droplets are one of the reasons. Researchers are planning larger studies to examine their effects, and to assess whether improved ventilation could help remove them.
Good ventilation is always important in a kitchen, so if you have a window, as well as opening it whenever possible, install a small window fan and put it on every time you cook. While it won’t reduce any kitchen grease, it will pull air out and help eliminate cooking odours.
Mechanical ventilation from an oven hood or vent is useful whether you have a window or not, as it directly removes air and odours through ducts.
If you don’t have an oven hood and the bathroom’s reasonably close to the kitchen, switch on the bathroom fan when you’re cooking, as it will help air circulate in other rooms too.
2. Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odourless gas that can be emitted from faulty or misused combustion appliances like gas cookers. At moderate levels, the gas can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and fainting, and at high levels it can be fatal.
If a gas flame, which normally burns blue, instead burns orange, this may indicate a build-up of carbon monoxide, so have your appliance checked immediately. Get gas appliances inspected annually by a registered professional, and buy a CO alarm from your local DIY store.
You might not think of mould hidden in your kitchen nooks and crannies as a health hazard, but it can cause allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems. It grows in areas where moisture accumulates, such as near leaky plumbing, so check under your kitchen sink. Fix leaks, and use a dehumidifier and the kitchen extractor fan to help prevent it.
The campaigning charity Electrical Safety First says more than half of all accidental house fires start in the kitchen, often due to due to people misusing electrical cooking appliances, including microwaves. The mixture of water, hot surfaces, flexible cables and electricity in the kitchen can be very dangerous.
The charity recommends:
- Don’t wrap flexible cables around any equipment when it’s still warm.
- Never try to get toast that’s stuck out of a toaster while it’s plugged in, and especially not with a metal knife as there are often live parts inside.
- Check plug sockets aren’t overloaded with too many electrical appliances as this can lead to overheating.
- Make sure you have a working smoke detector.