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Respiratory health and lung function in Chinese restaurant kitchen workers
  1. Tze Wai Wong1,
  2. Andromeda H S Wong1,
  3. Frank S C Lee2,
  4. Hong Qiu1
  1. 1School of Public Health and Primary Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  2. 2Department of Civil Engineering, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China
  1. Correspondence to Professor Tze Wai Wong, 4/F School of Public Health and Primary Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sha Tin, New Territories, Hong Kong, China; twwong{at}


Objectives To measure air pollutant concentrations in Chinese restaurant kitchens using different stove types and assess their influence on workers' respiratory health.

Methods 393 kitchen workers from 53 Chinese restaurants were surveyed over 16 months: 115 workers from 21 restaurants using only electric stoves and 278 workers from 32 restaurants using only gas stoves. Workers were interviewed about their respiratory symptoms and had their lung function tested. Concentrations of nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) were measured using portable monitors and air-bag sampling. Temperature and noise levels were assessed.

Results Median concentrations of NO, NO2 and CO were 7.4, 1.5 and 1.6 times higher in gas-fuelled kitchens than in electric ones and average concentrations of PM2.5 and TVOC were 81% and 78% higher, respectively. Differences were smaller for CH4 and NMHC. Electricity-run kitchens were 4.5°C cooler and 9 dBA less noisy than gas-fuelled ones. Workers using electric cookers had significantly better lung function than their gas-using counterparts and their mean FEV1 and FVC values were 5.4% and 3.8% higher, respectively, after adjustment for confounders. Wheeze, phlegm, cough and sore throat were more prevalent in workers using gas. The adjusted OR for having phlegm regularly was significantly higher.

Conclusions The poorer lung function and higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms among workers in gas-fuelled kitchens compared to those in electricity-powered kitchens may be associated with exposure to higher concentrations of toxic air pollutants generated during gas cooking.

  • Air pollution
  • respiratory function tests
  • respiratory signs and symptoms
  • kitchen workers
  • gas cooking
  • hygiene / occupational hygiene
  • respiratory
  • lung function
  • indoor air

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  • Funding The Hongkong Electric Company provided partial funding for this study.

  • Competing interests None. The authors' findings were independent from, and not affected by the funding organisation.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.