It's a New York City right of passage to bear the Eau du Street Meat scent after walking through a plume of scorched chicken grease on a Midtown sidewalk. The charcoal-cooked meats might be a city staple, but pollution caused by the grills has alarming effects on the environment and on humans.

"One street cart grilling meat over charcoal for a day sends as much particulate matter into the air as a diesel truck driving 3,500 miles, the distance from New York to Denver and back," the Health Department explained to Crains. The problem isn't limited to street meat vendors, either. Restaurants also share the burden of contributing to "PM2.5" particulate matter into the atmosphere, a volume that could be as high as 20% of total polluters in New York.

With the city poised to (rightly) increase the number of street vendor permits, there's concern from the DOH that pollution could increase as more charcoal vendors take to the streets. We've reached out to see how many current license holders employ charcoal and we'll update when we hear back.

Matthew Shapiro, senior attorney at the Street Vendor Project, says the organization would be eager to work with the DOH on finding clean solutions, especially since the lung health of the people working the grills month after month is severely impacted by the particulate matter. Many vendors already employ propane or alternative heat methods, but "some vendors will switch to gas grilling if need be, even though many barbecue purists prefer charcoal," Shapiro says.