Barbecue: dangerous cooking smoke

Barbecue cooking generates toxic and carcinogenic substances, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The mode of contamination by these substances is well known and described, it occurs mainly following the ingestion of cooked meats. A new study shows that PAHs also pass through the pores of the skin and that clothes can also serve as a vector to enter the body.

Summer is coming, and with it the desire to grill. Especially in France, the second European country for the use of barbecues. This method of cooking, however, results in the incomplete combustion of organic substances. And therefore the production of molecules that are harmful and carcinogenic to humans. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are an example. These are polluting and mostly carcinogenic organic compounds.

During a barbecue, PAHs pass through the skin

During a barbecue, the main route by which these substances enter the body is through the ingestion of the grilled food. The smoke produced also contains a large amount of PAHs and is inhaled through the lungs. But a Chinese study shows the importance of another absorption pathway: Dr. Zeng’s team demonstrated the passage of PAHs through the skin. This exposure to pollutants is often underestimated, but seems to have an even greater weight than inhalation through breathing.

Choose cotton clothes for your barbecues

The researchers conducted their study on 20 people divided into three groups. The first was exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons produced by grilled meat via food ingestion, respiration and skin; the second group was exposed only to smoke and the third, equipped with masks, only through the skin. By evaluating the concentration of compounds present in urine, before and after exposure, in clothing and in the atmosphere, they found that a significant amount of the smallest PAHs could enter the body through the skin. .

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This work is an opportunity to remember that clothing only offers partial protection against pollutants. The researchers observed that cotton partially retains PAHs, but beyond a certain level of saturation, the clothes themselves become a source of exposure. The next step will be to expand the study sample and perform further analysis to understand how the absorbed molecules are metabolized by the body.


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