The aim of this study was to measure the exposure to total dust, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) of kitchen workers in four different types of restaurants in Sweden (Large scale, European, Fast food, and Asian).


One hundred full work-shift (8 h) personal exposure samples were taken from 36 workers in 21 commercial kitchens. Most workers were sampled three times. Mass concentration of total dust was determined using standard gravimetric methods; the filters were analyzed for their content of particulate PAHs. Gas-phase PAHs were sampled using adsorbent tubes (XAD-II) placed after the filter and analyzed with high-resolution gas chromatography/low-resolution mass spectrometry. NO2 was measured using passive dosimeters. Stationary measurements in the kitchen were made in parallel with the personal sampling.


Group geometric mean concentrations for personal exposure to total dust ranged from 77 µg m−3 (Fast food) to 320 µg m−3 (European kitchens). Individual exposure samples of total dust ranged from ~40 to 3900 µg m−3. In the Large-scale and European kitchens, the time spent frying was identified as a determinant increasing personal exposure to total dust. The within-worker variance dominated the exposure variability of total dust in Large-scale and European kitchens, whereas between-worker variance dominated in Fast food and Asian kitchens. Exposure to total PAHs was statistically significantly higher for workers in the Asian kitchens. Also, exposure to NO2 was higher in the Asian kitchens, which all used gas stoves for cooking. The stationary measurements of total dust showed lower levels than personal exposures for most kitchens, whereas for PAHs, stationary levels were closer to personal exposure levels for all kitchen types.


The results of this study increase the knowledge about exposure to air pollutants for kitchen workers of restaurant types that are common in Sweden and the rest of Europe. Personal sampling is essential for an accurate exposure assessment, and the large day-to-day variability in exposure levels points to the importance of repeated sampling.

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