Gas Stoves: A Toxic Secret in Your Kitchen?

Credit: Torsten Dettlaff/Pexels

The gas industry has successfully marketed gas stoves as clean and reliable since the 1930s. Today, over 30% of U.S. households still use gas stoves, but concerns have emerged about their impact on children’s health. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating indoor air pollution caused by gas stoves, which has led to media reports on their dangers and campaigns defending them. There is no plan to ban gas stoves at this time.

What are the health risks of gas stoves?

Gas stoves produce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) when burned, which can worsen respiratory diseases. The amount of NO2 exposure depends on the cooking space size and ventilation. The EPA has set outdoor NO2 limits, but not indoor ones. Canada and the WHO have set indoor NO2 guidelines. A study found that NO2 concentration when cooking with gas stoves exceeded guidelines, and replacing them with electric stoves reduced daily NO2 by 35%. Another study found that gas stoves can produce NO2 concentrations that exceed outdoor standards without adequate ventilation. High indoor levels of NO2 from gas stoves can impact children’s health, leading to respiratory problems, learning deficits, and cardiovascular issues. Gas stove use increases the risk of childhood respiratory illness and asthma. Proper ventilation can reduce air pollutants, but gas stoves are not uniformly required to be vented to the outside, and exhaust hoods that recirculate the air indoors are less effective. Only 21.1% of gas stoves in homes with children were consistently used with exhaust vents. Cooking with gas stoves produces harmful pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and benzene, which can impact the heart, lungs, and other bodily systems. These pollutants can be released even when the stove is turned off. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, can also leak from gas stoves and have negative impacts on the environment and human health. Ventilation can reduce exposure to pollutants, but it does not completely eliminate the risks. Low-income communities are at a higher risk of indoor air pollution from gas stoves due to smaller, poorly ventilated homes and inadequate heating. This can result in increased susceptibility to respiratory problems such as asthma. Switching to electric cooking may not be affordable for many low-income residents, so governments can provide credits or rebates to help with the purchase of electric stoves or plug-in induction stovetops as a solution.

The gas industry’s response

The gas industry has claimed that gas stoves are safe, citing the lack of regulation by government agencies. They have also launched an anti-electrification campaign, using social media influencers to promote gas cooking and suggesting that electric homes require expensive retrofits. The industry now argues that emissions from cooking, not the stove itself, are the main problem. They have criticized recent studies linking gas stoves to increased childhood asthma cases, citing other studies that found no association.

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Source: Columbia Climate School


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