Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Article
  • Published:

Air pollution in the workplace: making shish kebab is an overlooked occupational hazard



Meat grilled with wood charcoal is the most popular meal in Central Asia, but little is known about the grillers’ occupational exposure to fine particulate matter (PM) in fumes.


The aim of this study was to provide a quantitative analysis of occupational exposure to fine PM in grillers in the workplace.


We assessed exposure to PM2.5 from barbecue fumes using SidePak AM520 in six popular cafes in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Grillers wore devices for 8 h of work shift for 7 days in each place. Within- and between-place variances of PM2.5 mass concentrations were calculated using analysis of variance, and we also calculated the fold range of the 95% variance within (wR0.95) and between places (bR0.95), as well as exceedance (γ) and the probability of overexposure (θ).


Two modes of exposure were identified, including intermittent and continuous. The median of daily geometric mean PM2.5 concentrations was 0.143 (interquartile range (IQR): 0.213) and 0.404 (IQR: 0.243) mg/m3, accordingly. bR0.95 was very large (20.2), but wR0.95 was even greater (47.8), illustrating extremely high fluctuations in PM2.5 concentrations; γ was 0.116, and θ was 0.095.


Very high occupational exposure to barbecue fumes in grillers is overlooked and likely causes elevated health risks.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Histogram of daily geometric mean concentrations from sites.
Fig. 2: PM2.5 personal occupational exposure concentrations to barbecue fumes in the places with intermittent mode of exposure.
Fig. 3: PM2.5 personal occupational exposure concentrations to barbecue fumes in the places with continuous mode of exposure.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Wu C-C, Bao L-J, Guo Y, Li S-M, Zeng EY. Barbecue fumes: an overlooked source of health hazards in outdoor settings? Environ Sci Technol. 2015;49:10607–15.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Lao J-Y, Wu C-C, Bao L-J, Liu L-Y, Shi L, Zeng EY. Size distribution and clothing-air partitioning of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons generated by barbecue. Sci Total Environ. 2018;639:1283–9.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Kabir E, Kim K-H, Ahn J-W, Hong O-F, Sohn JR. Barbecue charcoal combustion as a potential source of aromatic volatile organic compounds and carbonyls. J Hazard Mater. 2010;174:492–9.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Badyda AJ, Widziewicz K, Rogula-Kozłowska W, Majewski G, Jureczko I. Inhalation exposure to PM-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons released from barbecue grills powered by gas, lump charcoal, and charcoal briquettes. In: Pulmonary disorders and therapy. Springer: Cham; 2017. p. 11–27.

  5. Kim KH, Jahan SA, Kabir E, Brown RJC. A review of airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and their human health effects. Environ Int. 2013;60:71–80.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Vinnikov D, Raushanova A, Kyzayeva A, Romanova Z, Tulekov Z, Kenessary D, et al. Lifetime occupational history, respiratory symptoms and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: results from a population-based study. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2019;14:3025.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Vinnikov D, Tulekov Z, Raushanova A. Occupational exposure to particulate matter from air pollution in the outdoor workplaces in Almaty during the cold season. PLoS ONE. 2020;15:e0227447.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Rappaport SM, Kupper LL. Quantitative exposure assessment. California, USA: El Cerrito; 2008.

  9. Rappaport SM. Assessment of long-term exposures to toxic substances in air. Ann Occup Hyg. 1991;35:61–121.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Blanc PD, Annesi-Maesano I, Balmes JR, Cummings KJ, Fishwick D, Miedinger D, et al. The occupational burden of nonmalignant respiratory diseases. An Official American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society Statement. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2019;199:1312–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Yang H, Li S, Sun L, Zhang X, Cao Z, Xu C, et al. Smog and risk of overall and type-specific cardiovascular diseases: a pooled analysis of 53 cohort studies with 21.09 million participants. Environ Res. 2019;172:375–83.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Shah ASV, Langrish JP, Nair H, McAllister DA, Hunter AL, Donaldson K, et al. Global association of air pollution and heart failure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2013;382:1039–48.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Atkinson RW, Kang S, Anderson HR, Mills IC, Walton HA. Epidemiological time series studies of PM2.5 and daily mortality and hospital admissions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Thorax. 2014;69:660–5.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Li M-H, Fan L-C, Mao B, Yang J-W, Choi AMK, Cao W-J, et al. Short-term exposure to ambient fine particulate matter increases hospitalizations and mortality in COPD: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Chest. 2016;149:447–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Madani IM, Khalfan S, Khalfan H, Jidah J, Aladin MN. Occupational exposure to carbon monoxide during charcoal meat grilling. Sci Total Environ. 1992;114:141–7.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Bede-Ojimadu O, Orisakwe OE. Exposure to wood smoke and associated health effects in Sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review. Ann Glob Health. 2020;86:32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We would like to thank all grillers for their participation, as well as cafe management and the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Healthcare, Zhanna Kalmatayeva, for their support.


The publication was prepared with the support of the “RUDN University Program 5-100.”

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Denis Vinnikov.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Vinnikov, D., Romanova, Z. & Zhumabayeva, G. Air pollution in the workplace: making shish kebab is an overlooked occupational hazard. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 31, 777–783 (2021).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


This article is cited by


Quick links