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July 4 BBQ

Green grilling means tastier food, less pollution

Grilling without using lighter fluid means releasing into the air a lower amount of volatile organic compounds—key ingredients in smog.

It can also mean better-tasting food for your July 4 barbecue, suggests Beth Gorman, a spokeswoman for the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality.

So how to get the blasted coals glowing without dousing them in lighter fluid? Use a charcoal chimney in your barbecue, Gorman said in a news release.

Using a charcoal chimney and crumpled paper saves money in the long term, she said. Lighter fluid costs $4 a can, while a $15 chimney can last for years.

Besides being a good investment, the method causes less air pollution and keeps food from being tainted with chemicals as you grill.

From Gorman:

What is a charcoal chimney? It's a metal cylinder about seven inches across with a handle and a grate in the bottom that holds the charcoal. ... After you light the paper and start the fire, the coals will be ready for grilling in about 17 minutes.

Grilling with propane gas, natural gas or solar energy also reduces air pollution, Gorman said.

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"Mixed with sunshine and other pollutants, the chemicals in lighter fluid create a pollutant called ground-level ozone. These chemicals can taint the taste of the food you are grilling. Charcoal lighter fluid, a petroleum distillate, can be hazardous if ingested," she wrote.

From the PDEQ release:

The Tucson area is close to exceeding the federal government's standard for ground-level ozone. Once ozone measures above the federal Environmental Protection Agency's ground-level ozone standard, it can cause health problems for some people. Elevated levels of ground-level ozone can affect children, the elderly and people with lung or heart disease, including asthma and congestive heart failure.

Pima County also suggests using plates, napkins, and forks and knives that can be used again, to help save natural resources by reducing waste.

And, it's cheaper to use a paste made of baking soda and water, and a wire brush, to clean your barbecue grill. It costs pennies and is completely non-toxic. Aerosol oven cleaners give off toxic fumes.

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A charcoal chimney in action.