Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, are closely studying the second-largest source of particle air pollution in Southern California: commercial grilling, especially of hamburgers.
The research is being conducted by the university’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), a group also known for helping the the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) evaluate the effectiveness of various air purifiers. The attention of the CE-CERT researchers is currently focused on commercial grills and kitchens and the role they play in fine particle air pollution. During testing late last week at a media event, the researchers cooked up hundreds of burgers over open flames on a commercial grill to test particle emissions.
AQMD and CE-CERT say the pollution from commercial charbroilers in the region is twice as much as that produced by heavy-duty diesel trucks.
“For comparison, an 18-wheeler diesel-engine truck would have to drive 143 miles on the freeway to put out the same mass of particles as a single charbroiled hamburger patty,” said Bill Welch, a lead engineer of the study.
The leading single source of particle air pollution in Southern California, ahead of commercial grilling, is paved road dust. But when you add up the various forms of vehicular traffic – including off-road equipment, heavy-duty diesel trucks, light duty trucks and passenger vehicles – these various forms of traffic as a group qualify as the leading source of fine particle pollution in Southern California. Still, the CE-CERT studies point to a serious major form of pollution that is often overlooked.
The current study is focused on grills that burn from the bottom only, since grills that burn from the top and bottom are already regulated. Most have catalytic converters installed that help reduce pollution. The current study is testing various technologies that will work with the bottom-fired charbroilers and can be installed at a reasonable cost.
A local newspaper reports that Welch and the other Center researchers have cooked more than 4,000 hamburger patties since May alone for testing purposes, and have cooked up more than 4 tons of ground beef since they started their research back in 1994. The cooked burgers are donated to a regional food bank, according to a university press release.