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Could Al Fresco dining in the UK cause a spike in air pollution?

Could Al Fresco dining in the UK cause a spike in air pollution?

Experts warn that the relaxing of Lockdown and the reopening of pubs gardens and outdoor dining across the UK cold cause a spike in air pollution from gas-burning patio heaters

Pubs and restaurants in England today started serving food and drink outdoors, in what has been one of the most anticipated stages of ending lockdown.

Using a single outdoor gas heater for five hours a day every day produces the same amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution as that produced by a typical gas-heated home in a year, according to new research published by Future Climate for Environmental Defense Fund Europe.

After road transport, heating and powering homes and businesses with gas is the second-largest source of NOx pollution in London.

Yet a gas-heated home disperses this pollution outside, away from inhabitants.

In comparison, outdoor gas heaters emit pollution directly into the surrounding space and air that customers and workers breathe.

If a beer garden has 10 gas heaters working for a single night – that is equivalent to the pollution from gas heating 10 homes, all packed into the small space where several people are sitting.

The researchers have highlighted that electric heaters are a much better alternative, they do not produce any local NOx pollution, they use less energy and produce 60% less carbon dioxide emissions.

The report also highlights that pubs, cafes and restaurants can continue to reduce pollution by making changes to the way they cook food.

It is estimated that half of the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution produced in central London comes from commercial cooking – mainly grilling and frying, or anything where fat is heated or smoke is made.

Businesses can reduce this pollution by using oils with higher smoke points, reducing the surface area of oil exposed to the air when frying and cooking on electricity rather than gas burners.

In the midst of a respiratory pandemic, do we really want to gulp dirty air as we tuck into our meals and meet up outside?

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Michael Cornish