Blog: Graeme RobertsBurger burning and diesel particulates are comparable, they say

Graeme Roberts | 26 September 2012

As one who is partial to the odd, well-done burger, made from scratch and cooked, if I may say so, to perfection on a large butane-fuelled outdoor BBQ (what the Americans apparently call a broiler), I am saddened that the regular attack on my waistline is again under threat, and this time it's not the vegetarian lobby...

From the New York Times Wheels section comes this: "In Freakonomics-like fashion, researchers at the University of California, Riverside [California, of course], have concluded that producing a charbroiled hamburger emits the same mass particulate matter as a heavy-duty diesel truck traveling 143 miles.

"It may seem counterintuitive, but Bill Welch, the school’s principal investigator for a study financed by two air-quality districts in California, said the hamburger’s role in air pollution stands out as other sources of particulate emissions, like cars and trucks, have undertaken heavy regulatory diets.

"As of today, we estimate that the hamburger’s contribution of particulate matter to ambient atmosphere is twice that of all the on-road diesel vehicles,” Welch told the NYT in a telephone interview this week. "It’s really a testament to the advances in technology in diesel engines."

Apparently, Welch came across the statistic by comparing data on different particulate sources in the South Coast Air Basin, an area that contains Orange County, and non-desert portions of surrounding counties, including Los Angeles and Riverside. Charbroiled burgers emit 33 pounds of particulate matter per 1,000 pounds of meat cooked, he noted, so a typical 1/3-pound patty would emit five grams of particles before hitting a diner’s palate. It would take a diesel truck emitting 35 milligrams per mile for 143 miles to equal the same amount of soot.

As the Americans say, "Enough already!"

I can't imagine the outcry if millions of Saturday 'tailgaters' were banned from their parking lot, pre-football game burger cook-outs across the States.

Could never happen? Don't rule it out. Would anyone have figured on a New York City mayor wanting a ban on the sale of those giant 32oz soda cups?

He does...


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