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Is Charcoal Grilling a Safe Way of Cooking 0708

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CHARCOAL GRILLING: Is Charcoal Grilling a Safe Way of Cooking?
By Eun Chong Cho



Description and Rationale


Is there another alternative for cooking meat instead of charcoal grilling in the Philippines? Charcoal grilling is unsafe because it causes harm to health and the environment. Does grilling with charcoal have chemical substances that have negative effects to living things? Scientists have proven that the fumes from the charcoal griller contain carcinogens (cancer risk factors) such as Heterocyclic animes, but, ironically, many people are driven by the aroma as they think of delicious lecheon for their supper. How does grilling impact the ecosystem and other animal population?

Secondly, charcoal grilling also leads to several environmental issues in the Philippines. The major issue in the environment would be logging and deforestation to collect timber for charcoal production. The Filipinos produce charcoal for money in a short period of time. In fact, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) banned the production of charcoal to slow deforestation; however, the charcoal production is illegally practiced even today from mahogany, narra, gmelina, ipil-ipil, or teak trees. There is a tendency of Filipinos to dispose of unused charcoal with their trash and simply burn them afterwards. In addition, used charcoals often leave a sordid result in the environment. Seemingly, charcoal grilling is also an issue of air pollution. Do the fumes encourage global warming? Perhaps some mutations can occur to living things as the environment changes. Even the production of charcoal emits heaps of smoke to the atmosphere and causes problems not only the environment, but it would also inflict long-term consequences to the ecosystems. Then, how can air pollution (charcoal fumes) be controlled?

The main purpose of this project will be to research the chemistry of charcoal fumes and investigate more about grilled food by searching through literature and interviews with people who are passionate about grilling at their homes and streets. These results might strengthen the fact that charcoal grilling is unsafe; moreover, Filipinos would also be encouraged to use the alternative way of grilling and act in accord to prevent global warming and protecting the environment around them. It is possible that many people will have objections toward the issues of charcoal grilling; especially, in the means of traditional way of cooking in the Philippines and certain flavoring to the meat that benefits the taste of food products. Perhaps there is an alternative way of cooking meat that carries on the tradition and taste; furthermore, is could be both environmental friendly and free of health issues. Such new methods of cooking will make the Filipinos prevent future consequences and change their old habits.






Common Names and Synonyms


Gmelina Arborea is locally known as Gamhar. Here are synonyms for Gmelina in other parts of the world: (Assamese) : gomari  (Gujarati) : Shewan, Sivan  (Hindi) : gamhar, khamara, khumbhari, sewan  (Kannada) : kulimavu, kumbuda, kumulu  (Kasmiri) : mara, shivani  (Latvian) : gmelīne  (Malayalam) : kumbil, kumbulu, kumilu, kumiska, pokki  (Maltese) : sigra  (Marathi) : shivan, siwan  (Oriya) : bhodropornni, gambari, kumar  (Punjabi) : gumhar, kumhar  (Sanskrit) : bhadraparni, gambhari, gandhari, kasmari, krishnavrintaka, sarvatobhadra, shriparni  (Tamil) :- kumla, kumalamaram, kumil, ummithekku  (Telugu) : gumartek, gummadi, summadi  (Sinhala) : Demata  (Bengali) : gamar, gamari, gomari, gumbar, gumhar  (Burmese) : mai saw, yemane, yemani, yemari  (English) : beechwood, gmelina, goomar teak, Kashmir tree, Malay beechwood, white teak, yemane  (French) : gmelina, melina, peuplier d Afrique  (German) : Gumar-Teak  (Nepali) : gamari, gambari, gumhari, khamari  (Spanish) : gmelina, Melina  (Thai) : so, so-maeo  (Trade name) : gumhar, yemane  (Vietnamese) : l[ox]I th[oj], nghi [ees]n d[aas]t.




 Kingdom: Plantae

Phylum: Tracheophyta Vascular Plants

Class: Magnoliopsida (dicotyledon)

Order: Lamiales (broomhead)

Family: Verbenaceae (Jaume Saint-Hilaire)

Genus: Gmelina (named after a German scientist, Johann Georg Gmelin)

Species: G. arborea (historical name of a town in Italy)



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Morphology and Physical Description


 Gmelina is either deciduous tree or a tall shrub that grows around 12–30 m high and 60–100 cm in diameter. gmelinas are trees, tall shrubs, or seldom sub shrubs, which often climb when young with their spiny branchlets. The color of the gmelina bark is light gray or gray-yellow and it has a smooth, thin texture and gradually becomes brown and rough. The twigs are stout, often slightly 4-angled. The leaves are broadly ovate, 10–20 cm long, 7–13 cm wide; with a base of 2–4 glands beneath the leaf. Underneath the leaf, there is velvety covering with yellow-brown hairs. The gmelina produces are many flowers that have short-stalks that are also densely hairy. The sepals of the flower are bell-shaped, 5 mm long, with 5-petal divisions which are bright orange-yellow or brownish-yellow in color. The flower contains stamens and pistils to pollinate. The gmelina tree produces juicy fruit that contains four seeds within a fruit. The bark is of brown color, while the inner wood is of color white/grey. The growth of the trunk is decreased due to the competition of age. The gmelina trees have a growth rate of 17.9 and 42.2 mm/year in diameter and 1-2 m/year in height.



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Getting Food


Gmelina Arboreas are autotrophs that produce and consume by photosynthesis. In the late growing stages, the gmelina tree reaches its peak and absorbs the sun’s energy with its leaves. The gmelina tree usually grows in almost any rainforest including: tropical savanna, highlands, very moist forests, deciduous forests, and even dry forests. The tree prefers to be in sunny places, although it can stand some shade. It is moderately frost hardy and recovers quickly from frost injuries. Gmelina arborea can be found in the western Himalayas. It survives best in open areas, though it tends to grow better in moist fertile valleys with sandy loam soil. Gmelina arborea tends to grow better in elevated ground soil near rivers. Obviously, the gmelina doesn’t live best where the drainage is poor. Poor soil conditions or droughts have a tendency to make the stem lean.




The production of the seed differs throughout various locations. There are 2 peak periods for the flowers to bloom, which may vary from year to year and with the local climatic conditions. The Gmelina arborea starts to flower from 3-4 years after planting. Self-pollination by nature is not as effective to produce fruits. However, in controlled self-pollination, flowers develop into fruits at higher rates. Many types of insects pollinate from one flower to another. Interestingly, birds and bats, attracted by the smell of fruits, are the main seed dispersing animals. Fruits mature within a week after flowering and fruiting may be spread over a 2-month period. In India, the gmelina flowers from February to March and its fruits ripen from the end of April to June.


Environmental Factors


Fortunately, the gmelina tree is not significantly affected by any pests, because many pests have an aversion to its scent throughout the tree (except its pollinators). The flower, bark, and root of the gmelina tree are used to make pesticides to treat garden plants and even the crops. Many people in the past years thought that the gmelina has chemicals that harm humans and animals, but fortunately, it does not harm humans and animals. The parts of the gmelina tree actually has a more positive effect for humans and animals when consumed. Gmelina arborea, an allellopathic plant, affects younger plant growth within its area and harms them by releasing chemical compounds into the environment; furthermore, to such lower strata tree species (about 1 meter and above), the gmelina’s chemicals have no effect on them, but rather help neighboring trees to produce healthier leaves and well-nourished fruits.


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Origin and Distribution


Gmelina arborea was first introduced from Myanmar into forest plantations of Peninsular and East Malaysia as a fast-growing tree species. It was also introduced to other Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Indonesia. Gmelina arborea has since been introduced into many countries worldwide, and large-scale gmelina plantations are found in Central and East Africa, West Africa and South Africa. Today, Gmelina arborea has reached Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam and it is also growing in other countries such as Brazil, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. The tree originated in mountain ranges and valleys. Then it gradually moved to prairies and forests around the globe. Lastly, the gmelina tree live best in 20°C and 65% humidity where the soil is constantly moist.


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Importance to People


The wood of Gmelina arborea is one of the best timbers of the tropics, useful for particle planks, plywood stocks, pit props, matches, and saw timber for light construction, furniture, general carpentry, and packing. It is also used in carriages, carvings, musical instruments, and ornamental work. Graveyard tests – burying wood temporarily for making caskets - indicate that the untreated timber may last 15 years when in contact with the soil. The gmelina is a hardwood which can be used to make charcoal that is less harmful to people. In Gambia there are two purposes for planting the gmelina tree, for firewood and for honey. It is often planted as a shade tree, despite its size and area. The leaves can be harvested as food for the animals and silkworms. Especially in the Philippines, deforesting the gmelina population is very common; moreover, provincial people utilize these trees for money, trade, firewood, and charcoal.

Gmelina arborea root decoction is used in folk remedies for strange tumors in India. Gmelina is a folk remedy for bites, blood disorders, convulsions, diarrhea, fever, headache, snakebite, sores, sore throat, swelling, and many more. It is also believed that the fruits are used as remedies for centuries. In the Philippines, Cebuanos make jams out of yemane fruits.


Survivability and Endangered Status


There are no natural problems in population of Gmelina arborea in the Philippines when not disturbed by any other human activities; though it is likely that the tree will compete for more sunlight with other vegetations around it. The main issue of their survival is that people constantly practice deforestation and don’t replant them back. Gmelina arborea usually produces 150m3 per hectare over a 10-year period, but peasant farmers used the slash and burn methods, in rural communities in Leyte Province, which cleared the whole forest within days. Any places in the Philippines that have a moist humid environment are good ecosystems for planting the gmelina tree. People gather lumber from Gmelina arborea which increases the endangered status of the tree in the Philippines.


Potential Solutions


Is charcoal grilling safe of not? A myriad of people around Cainta Rizal and other cities enjoy grilling as if they are not aware of the unsafe hazards. Indeed, chemists have proven that charcoal grilling contain carcinogens that eventually lead people to have cancer. Every night, seldom daybreak, Filipinos constantly grill on the streets or within their houses where heaps of smoke emit to the atmosphere. Some Filipinos are, fortunately, aware of these circumstances; thus, they find alternative ways of safer grilling methods. One major problem in Cainta Rizal and other primitive provinces in the Philippines is that some people can’t afford the alternatives of grilling and carry on their traditional ways, leant from their ancestors. There are other alternatives that do not cost as much, but people, haplessly, do not choose to follow them. Perhaps they are either uncertain or careless of what will happen to them and everything around them. Below are explanations of advantages and disadvantages of three certain factors that will be mentioned. Each possibility will propose a possible idea of safer grilling method.


Possibility 1: CHARWOOD


From an article found in October – 2005 edition of PIA Daily News Reader, there was compelling article of Ronny Sanchez’s new discovery of char-wood (preserved recycled organic fuel) that was a more environmental-friendly and efficient than other fuels such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), wood, and charcoal. He was inspired during his stay in Ireland and saw bagpipe people dig up peat from the ground and use it as fuel. Peat is partly decayed plant matter, specifically grass or moss, which had compacted naturally in its own way of preservation.




1. Most vendors on the internet insure free shipping when the product is purchased in a large quantity; therefore, consumers intend to buy more.

2. An average Filipino who sells barbeque on the shops can afford around 30 pesos per pound of char-wood. If all people in Cainta Rizal uses char-wood, then there would be less health concerns and air pollutions.




1. Some people do not own internet, perhaps not even a computer within their homes. If buyers can’t go on the internet, then they can’t order the product (char-wood).

2. Char-wood are in limited stocks and they are not sold rampantly in the streets and market places. Perhaps very seldom in the market places which results people purchasing cheap charcoal instead of char-wood.

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Adding vegetables to the griller is only a little work, but it is a great difference of determining the percentage of preventing cancer.




1. Melanie Polk, AICR's (American Institute for Cancer Research) director of nutrition education, said, "There is no need to eliminate grilling or broiling completely. Although animal meats are the major concern, grilled vegetables and fruits, or `blackened' dishes, in which only the seasoning is charred, present a substantially lower risk."

2. Melanie Polk talks about marinating the meat: "It is still possible to enjoy barbecued meats. Marinating meats before grilling can significantly reduce the amount of carcinogen that might otherwise form." Studies have shown that even briefly marinating foods is effective in reducing the amount of HCAs (heterocyclic amines) --in some cases by as much as 92% to 99%.”

3. Filipinos will have a healthier diet




1. Very few are vegetarians compared to meat lovers, where it is likely that people would avoid vegetables and only eat the cooked meat.

2. It is very possible that a minority of people in Cainta Rizal do not know the advantages of cooking vegetables with the meat on their griller. Some of them do not even know if they can cook vegetables on their griller.



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Another possible alternative than charcoal grilling would be using propane gas.




1. Using a gas griller is fast, efficient, and even clean after cooking.

2. It has been proven that gas grilling doesn’t affect health in any way. Likewise, such columns of smoke are not present; thus, it is possible to grill indoors.

3. Avoid deforestation for the production of charcoal – which also means the cessation of ‘slash and burn methods in provincial areas.’




1. Outdoor grilling fans would not consider this as an entertainment, but they would rather judge the taste.

2. Gas grillers can be quite expensive compared to the charcoal grillers that not all people in Cainta Rizal would be convinced to buy them at their homes.


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Agbagwa, IO; Mensah, SI. “Breaking Dormancy In Gmelina arborea Roxb. Through Treatment Of Seeds With Chemical Substances And Alternating Temperature.”  African Journals Online. 2004.   NISC. 3 May, 2008 <http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=10714>.


 “Char-Wood: Answer to rising fuel prices.” PIA (Philippine Information Agency) Daily News Reader. 10 Oct. 2005. 3 May, 2008. <http://www.pia.gov.ph/?m=12&fi=p051024.htm&no=24>.


 Duke, James A. “Gmelina arborea Roxb.” 7 Jan, 1998. 12 April, 2008 <http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Gmelina_arborea.html>.


Cervantes, Enie Morante. Private Interview. 3 May, 2008.


“Gmeina arborea.” Wikipedia.org. 22 March 2008. Wikimedia. 13 April <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gmelina_arborea>.


“Gmelina arborea (Gumhar).” Zipcodezoo.com. 9 April, 2008. BayScience Foundation, Inc. 12 April, 2008 <http://zipcodezoo.com/Plants/G/Gmelina_arborea.asp>.


Pimentel Jr., Aquilino. “Pimentel Calls For Scrapping of Special DENR Permits Being Used To Circumvent Total Log Ban Imposed By GMA.” Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel: News. 26 January, 2005. 3 May, 2008 <http://www.nenepimentel.org/news/20050126_Log_ban.asp>.


Wankel, Beth. “Gas vs. Charcoal Grilling: Pros and Cons.” Essortment.com. 2002. demand media knowledge. 3 May, 2008 <http://www.essortment.com/food/charcoalgaspro_swuy.htm>.




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