A measurement and modelling investigation of the indoor air chemistry following cooking activities

Helen Davies, Catherine Anne O'Leary, Terry James Dillon, David Shaw, Marvin Shaw, Archit Mehra, Gavin David Phillips, Nicola Carslaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Domestic cooking is a source of indoor air pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can impact on indoor air quality. However, the real-time VOC emissions from cooking are not well characterised, and similarly, the resulting secondary chemistry is poorly understood. Here, selected-ion flow-tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS) was used to monitor the real-time VOC emissions during the cooking of a scripted chicken and vegetable stir-fry meal, in a room scale, semi-realistic environment. The VOC emissions were dominated by alcohols (70% of total emission), but also contained a range of aldehydes (14%) and terpenes (5%), largely attributable to the heating of oil and the preparation and heating of spices, respectively. The direct cooking-related VOC emissions were then simulated using the Indoor Chemical Model in Python (INCHEM-Py), to investigate the resulting secondary chemistry. Modelling revealed that VOC concentrations were dominated by direct emissions, with only a small contribution from secondary products, though the secondary species were longer lived than the directly emitted species. Following cooking, hydroxyl radical concentrations reduced by 86%, while organic peroxy radical levels increased by over 700%, later forming secondary organic nitrates, peroxyacylnitrates (PANs) and formaldehyde. Monoterpene emissions were shown to drive the formation of secondary formaldehyde, albeit to produce relatively modest concentrations (average of 60 ppt). Sensitivity analysis of the simulation conditions revealed that increasing the outdoor concentrations of ozone and NOx species (2.9× and 9×, respectively) resulted in the greatest increase in secondary product formation indoors (≈400%, 200% and 600% increase in organic nitrates, PANs and formaldehyde production, respectively). Given the fact that climate change is likely to result in increased ozone concentrations in the future, and that increased window-opening in response to rising temperatures is also likely, higher concentrations of indoor oxidants are likely in homes in the future. This work, therefore, suggests that cooking could be a more important source of secondary pollutants indoors in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Sciences: Processes and Impacts
Early online date23 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Aug 2023

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© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2023

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