Now that the Memorial Day weekend has kicked off grilling season, new information about staying safe while barbecuing has recently emerged. A study from China released on May 26th listed “skin exposure” as a major factor in the absorption of carcinogens called PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). These types of carcinogens have been shown to greatly increase the consumer’s risk of developing a range of cancers, particularly lung, skin and colon.
Other risk factors for cancer from grilling have been known for a while, such as the consumption of charred meat and inhaling BBQ smoke. These types of exposures to PAHs are found when using charcoal, lighter fluid and eating food that has been cooked over an open flame, however the dangers of PAH absorption through skin is now considered just as much as a threat to contributing to the development of cancer as to breathing in and eating muscle meats such as including beef, pork, fish and poultry.
When grilling outdoors, wearing long-sleeved and full pant length clothing does show some protection, although the clothing needs to be washed as soon as possible to avoid a continuation of contamination. Even those standing nearby a bbq grill need to be aware of the possible negative effects of inhaling, consuming and now, skin absorption from the PAH levels from barbeques are now re-evaluated.
The bottom line: Enjoy your cookout, yet be aware of keeping yourself as safe as possible and limiting your exposure in as many ways as possible.