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UT professor: Mind how you cook and clean because poor air quality in your home can hurt your health

Professor Qiang He worries about the air quality inside people's homes, especially while cooking, painting, cleaning and other household tasks, without ventilation.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Plenty of people worry about the air quality outside their home... but what about the quality inside? A University of Tennessee School of Engineering professor said it's important for people to be just as mindful to avoid long-term health problems. 

Cooking, disinfecting, painting and other household tasks can worsen the air quality in your home and cause illnesses with long-term exposure, according to UT professor Qiang He. 

He and his team at the engineering school studied indoor air quality and the kind of hazardous particles people are exposed during daily life. 

He said cooking could expose people to worse air than outdoor air on hazardous air quality days.

"We actually spend more than 90% of time indoors," He said. "But we don't know as much." 

He said he wanted to learn more about indoor air quality, so he asked people to wear a device around all day. He said the device helped his team figure out what particles people were exposed to throughout their day. 

The research team found people exposed themselves to carcinogenic substances while cooking. 

"You actually produce quite a few of these different kinds of chemicals, just by the combustion process of any oil droplets," Dr. He said. "If you get a lot of that for a long period of time, it could cause a potential problem." 

"People don't smoke, they don't do anything too high risk, still develop issues with the lung[s]," He said. "I think evidence [is] accumulating that some of the exposure coming from the kitchens from our daily exposure." 

He said the best way to prevent poor air quality indoors is simply to ensure you're properly ventilating your home, particularly when cooking or doing tasks like cleaning or painting that create fumes. Circulate the air indoors with air from outside.