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Barbecue Dangers You Didn't Know Existed

With everyone gearing up for Fourth of July celebrations, now is a good time to revisit barbecue safety.  Because when cooking out of doors, there’s a lot more to worry about than just burning the burgers.

While you are no doubt wise to the dangers of accidental burns and the food poisoning risks of  undercooked meats, did you know that cooking on the grill can pose a cancer hazard?

According to Dr. Martha Howard of Chicago Healers, research has shown that when PhIP, a barbecue/char chemical, is added to rats’ food, they can quickly develop cancerous changes in their intestines, spleens and prostates.  Other chemicals produced when meat is charred have been found to increase the risk of breast, stomach, colon and prostrate cancer.  And PAHs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, produced by smoking fat from chicken, fish or meat and can cause lung, liver, skin and kidney tissue damage.

Still hungry?

Courtesy of Dr. Howard, we bring you some tips for avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals when grilling:

  • Before you get started, thoroughly clean your grill to get rid of any leftover bits from the last cookout.
  • When grilling with charcoal, avoid petroleum starters.  Instead, use a wood starter and stack your charcoal up in a 2 pound metal can with the ends cut off.  When the coals are ready, use tongs to lift and remove the can from the grill.
  • When using a gas grill, light it immediately after opening the propane valve.
  • To reduce the amount of PAHs, trim the fat off your meats before cooking.
  • Marinades actually protect meats from charring, so go ahead and soak it up – in the refrigerator, of course.
  • When done, make sure the charcoal is completely out or the propane gas valve is tightly closed.

To avoid food poisoning from undercooked meats, use a thermometer and cook to the following internal temperatures:

  • Chicken:  165 degrees
  • Hamburger: 160 degrees
  • Pork: 150 degrees
  • Hot dogs: 140 degrees
  • Steak: 145 degrees for medium rare and 160 degrees for medium.

For more tips on grilling safely, visit the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Assocation.

Image: Hyougushi/Flickr

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