Fumes from grilling pork a health risk for cooks and buyers

THAILAND - Street stalls selling skewered grilled pork are a health risk to people selling the food as well as those buying it, the Pollution Control Department has warned.

The PCD said the risks include eye irrigation, respiratory problems and even cancer.

Smoke from hot grills contains volatile organic compounds at a rate of between 168 and 441 parts per million, recent PCD research found.

"This amount of VOC may not be high when compared with smoke from burning incense sticks and exhaust fumes but over a long time, exposure can be detrimental to your health," PCD director-general Wichien Jungrungruang said yesterday.

Skewered grilled pork is a staple meal for many city residents. Street stalls selling the food can be found at almost every corner of Bangkok.

Wichien said the PCD had done tests on street stall smoke in response to queries by consumers.

"We're speaking up about this because we want to educate the public about the existing health risks," he said.

He said he feared consumers and the stall owners might not be aware of the risks associated with the smoke.

A vendor in Don Muang said he had been selling the skewered grill pork for nearly five years and had no idea about the health risks.

"But I must admit that I have experienced eye irritation sometimes," he said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said he hoped the authorities would not crack down on street stalls, as that would hurt his livelihood.

"From now on, I will wear a facial mask while working over the grill," he said.

Wichien assured vendors that the PCD had no plan to take action against them. He said he planned to consult with the Public Health Ministry over the health risks vendors face.

"A study will be needed to explore measures that will minimise adverse health impacts," he said.