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Work environment factors and respiratory complaints in Norwegian cooks



Norwegian cooks exhibit relatively high mortality, particularly from respiratory diseases. Both occupational hazards and lifestyle factors have been suggested as possible explanations. Negative health effects from exposure to cooking fumes are well documented in non-Western populations, and it has been claimed that cooking fumes in Western style cooking might be substantially different. We hypothesise that exposure to cooking fumes contributes to respiratory diseases also in professional cooks in Western countries. The aim of this study was to elucidate if specific work environment factors related to cooking fume exposure are determinants for respiratory morbidity in Norwegian cooks.


We surveyed specific work environment factors and respiratory complaints in 553 subjects that were currently working as skilled cooks. Inclusion was based on the register of people that had graduated as skilled cooks in central Norway between 1988 and 2008. Determinants for the occurrence of respiratory complaints were explored by logistic regression.


Overall, 17.2% of subjects reported respiratory complaints at work, while 8.1% had chronic bronchitis. Those who performed frying for over half of their workday exhibited an increased odds ratio for having chronic bronchitis of 2.5 (95% CI 1.2–5.3). Using gas for frying and using a fryer in the kitchen were also related to the occurrence of respiratory complaints.


This study in Norwegian cooks demonstrates a relationship between the extent of frying and the occurrence of work-related respiratory complaints. Therefore, reducing exposure to cooking fumes could reduce respiratory complaints in cooks, and potentially help alleviate excess morbidity and mortality in this occupation.

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Torgunn Qvenild is greatly acknowledged for her superb efforts in data collection.


This study was mainly funded by Department of Occupational Medicine, St. Olavs hospital, Trondheim University Hospital, and supported with Grant from the Work Environment Fund of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (Grant number S-2832).

Author information

All authors have designed the study, and analysed the data. S. Svedahl and B. Hilt have administered the collection of data and drafted the manuscript. K. Svendsen has commented and approved the final manuscript.

Correspondence to Sindre Rabben Svedahl.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interests.


The study protocol was approved by the Regional Committee for Medical Research Ethics in central Norway (Approval No. 2008/2527). Signed informed consents were obtained from each participant.

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Svedahl, S.R., Hilt, B. & Svendsen, K. Work environment factors and respiratory complaints in Norwegian cooks. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 93, 205–212 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-019-01473-w

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  • Occupational health
  • Air pollution
  • Exposure
  • Cooking fumes
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Respiratory morbidity
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Work-related
  • Hospitality industry