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Pollution & HealthThe Truth About Gas Stoves

The Truth About Gas Stoves

The Truth About Gas Stoves

“The world of tomorrow is cooking with gas!” This phrase was popularized by the gas industry way back to the Nineteen Thirties, promoting gas stoves as clean and reliable. Carmen Miranda even sang, “Cooking With Gas” within the 1948 film “A Date With Judy” and the American Gas Association (AGA) got Bob Hope to adopt the catchphrase “Now you’re cooking with gas” in his routines. The gas industry’s marketing campaign was a giant success: gas got here to be seen as clean and natural, and eventually gas stoves became the cooktop of selection for many skilled chefs.

people cooking in a restaurant

Skilled chefs prefer gas stoves. Photo: IrenicRhonda

Today, about 40 million U.S. households use gas stoves—greater than 30 percent of homes; in Recent Jersey, California, Chicago, and Recent York City, it’s about 70 percent of households. But recently, concerns have arisen  about their impacts on children’s health. What does the science show, and why are we only hearing about this now?

In January, the chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that emissions from gas stoves may very well be hazardous and that it was looking into ways to scale back the indoor air pollution they produce. Although the CPSC said it was not considering a ban on gas stoves, the media was suddenly awash with reports on the risks of gas stoves and campaigns that defended them.

What are the health risks of gas stoves?

The natural gas that fuels gas stoves is primarily methane which, when burned, turns into carbon dioxide. Burning the fuel also produces nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which might aggravate respiratory diseases comparable to asthma, and end in coughing or difficulty respiratory. How much NO2 and other pollutants persons are exposed to depends upon the dimensions of their cooking space and the ventilation available.

In 1971, the EPA established regulations to limit outdoor exposure to NO2 to 53 parts per billion (ppb) over the course of a 12 months. In 2010, the agency determined that, in actual fact, exposure shouldn’t exceed 100ppb in a single hour. The EPA has never set any regulations for indoor NO2 air pollution. Canada and the World Health Organization, nonetheless, have set indoor NO2 guidelines for one hour at 90ppb and 106ppb respectively.

A recent study involving researchers at Columbia University’s Climate School and the Mailman School of Public Health found that NO2 concentration when cooking with gas stoves reached a mean of 197 ppb; when gas stoves were replaced with electric stoves in 20 households, every day NO2 concentrations fell by 35 percent .

A 2020 study  by Rocky Mountain Institute, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Moms Out Front, and Sierra Club found that boiling water might produce 184 ppb of NO2; baking a cake in a gas oven could produce 230 parts per billion, and roasting meat could produce 296 ppb. Using greater or more burners or turning flames up higher can lead to much more NO2 being emitted. In other words, gas stoves can produce concentrations of NO2 that easily exceed EPA’s outdoor NO2 air quality standards if adequate ventilation will not be used.

Because children’s respiratory and immune systems will not be fully mature, and since they’ve faster respiratory and physical activity rates, high indoor levels of NO2 can impact children’s health. They can lead to increased susceptibility to lung infections and asthma, respiratory problems, learning deficits, and cardiovascular issues, and may exacerbate allergies. A 1992 evaluation found that NO2 levels comparable to the quantity a gas stove releases increases the chance for a childhood respiratory illness by 20 percent. A more moderen study found that 12.7 percent of U.S. childhood asthma cases, or one in eight, were attributable to gas stove use, confirming the findings of earlier studies.

“[The 12.7 percent finding] is basically complex when it comes to the actual causal pathway,” said Harry Kennard, senior research associate at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy “That’s to not say that the combustion byproducts of gas are healthy — they aren’t. But the way in which that they impact you is basically a form of complex assembly of a lot of various things—the constructing morphology, socio-demographic aspects, and the supply of decent ventilation.”

a stove with an exhaust hood

Exhaust hood. Photo: Ethan

Ventilation can lessen risks but won’t completely eliminate them. Gas stoves, unlike gas hot water heaters and dryers, will not be uniformly required to be vented to the surface. Proper ventilation—exhaust hoods, fans over stoves, or open windows—can reduce air pollutants, but in lots of places, vents cannot or will not be required to hook up with the outside. Exhaust hoods that filter and recirculate the air indoors are less effective at cleansing the air. Furthermore, a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that only 21.1 percent of gas stoves in homes with children were consistently used with the stove’s exhaust vent.

In comparison with cooking with an electrical stove, cooking with gas also produces twice as much harmful particulate matter, which might have health impacts on the guts and lungs. Gas stoves may also release formaldehyde, a human carcinogen, and carbon monoxide, which is odorless and could be toxic in high concentrations. Carbon monoxide levels have been found to be three to 6 times higher in homes with gas stoves.

A gas stove also pollutes when it’s off. A 2022 study found that gas stoves, even when not in use, can leak as much benzene, a carcinogen, as secondhand cigarette smoke. One other study  that analyzed natural gas samples found that 95 percent of them contained benzene, for which there isn’t a secure level. That study also found 21 hazardous air pollutants in unburned gas, including hexane and toluene, which might affect the nervous system, liver, and kidneys.

Stanford University researchers measured emissions for 53 stoves while on and off. Seventy-six percent of unburned methane leaked out through pipes and fittings when stoves were off. High levels of methane can reduce the quantity of oxygen within the air, which might have quite a lot of health impacts. Methane can be a greenhouse gas 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide over 20 years. The study calculated that the two.6 million tons of methane emissions leaked from U.S. gas stoves in a single 12 months are such as the carbon dioxide produced by about 500,000 cars.

Because the standard and size of housing can determine exposure to indoor air pollution, the issue is frequently worse for low-income communities. Low-income residents who’ve smaller homes or apartments with inadequate ventilation and maybe many occupants will probably be more prone to the risks of gas stove pollution. And on account of inadequate heating, low-income residents may use gas stoves to heat their homes which can produce elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide and other hazardous pollutants.

Small kitchens are harder to ventilate. Photo: Jessica and Lon Binder

As well as, research shows that low-income communities have more incidences of asthma, which could be aggravated by gas stove use. Because switching to electric cooking is probably not reasonably priced for a lot of low-income residents, one solution is for governments to supply credits or rebates to assist with the acquisition of plug-in induction stovetops or electric stoves.

The gas industry’s response

Within the face of the mounting criticism of gas stoves, the gas industry has used the undeniable fact that the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission haven’t regulated gas stoves as evidence that they’re secure. One gas utility executive said, “The science across the secure use of natural gas for cooking is obvious: there aren’t any documented risks to respiratory health from natural gas stoves from the regulatory and advisory agencies and organizations accountable for protecting residential consumer health and safety.”

Meanwhile, the gas industry has mounted an anti-electrification campaign, sending robotexts to residents about how their electric bills would soar in the event that they switched to electric stoves. The American Gas Association has blogged that “All electric homes require expensive retrofits.” And the AGA and American Public Gas Association have paid young social media and Instagram influencers to sing the praises of cooking with gas.

More recently, an AGA spokesman said that emissions from cooking itself, and never the stove, are the most important problem. And in response to the most recent study that found gas stoves increased childhood asthma cases by 12.7 percent, the AGA claimed the study was not substantiated by “sound science” since the authors didn’t test real appliances, citing one other study that found no association between cooking with gas and asthma in children.

Who knew what when?

But in actual fact, the gas industry itself has been studying the risks from gas stove pollution for the reason that early Nineteen Seventies. A draft report by the AGA shows that it already had concerns about indoor air pollution in 1972.

Scientists have also known that the emissions from gas stoves can harm human respiratory systems for many years. In 1975, the EPA published a study that showed exposure to nitrogen dioxide from gas stoves caused respiratory problems. A 1981 EPA report on indoor air pollutants and their opposed health effects said, “Unvented gas cooking might be accountable for a big portion of nitrogen dioxide exposures in our population. In lots of homes, chronic exposures to nitrogen dioxide indoors may exceed established national ambient-air quality standards.” And in 1983, Congressional hearings on indoor air quality concluded that unvented gas stoves could produce nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants that might irritate respiratory systems. In 1986, the EPA asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to evaluate the risks of indoor sources of nitrogen dioxide, saying more epidemiological research was needed, but not until 2011 and 2013 did the CPSC warn the general public that exposure to nitrogen dioxide may very well be harmful.

The gas industry continued to dispute the science and hired its own researchers to conduct studies; it argued that regulations were unnecessary because people could take actions on their very own to ventilate. It has spent thousands and thousands lobbying Congress to guard its interests. In the long run, no regulations on gas stoves or their emissions were ever passed.

Gas stoves develop into cultural pawns

Now because the Consumer Product Safety Commission studies and seeks public comment in regards to the gas stove issue, the U.S. Oil and Gas Association has sponsored a recent nonprofit called Hands Off My Stove whose mission is to “preserve our right to decide on to cook our meals any way we would like without government interference.”

House Republicans introduced the “Guarding America’s Stoves (GAS) Act” and the “Stop Attempting to Obsessively Vilify Energy (STOVE) Act” to stop the CPSC and other agencies from banning gas stoves. In response to the Department of Energy’s proposed recent energy efficiency standards for gas stoves that might end in some existing ones being faraway from market, the “Save Our Gas Stoves Act” would prevent the Department of Energy from setting energy efficiency standards for gas stoves. Republican senators also introduced the “Natural Gas Appliances Standards Act of 2023,” which might prevent the Department of Energy from making rules that might prohibit the sale of any natural gas appliance. And Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed the elimination of sales tax on gas stoves to encourage their use.

Gas stoves have develop into pawns within the political culture war because they’re the gateways to natural gas fueled heating and hot water. About half of all U.S. homes use natural gas for warmth and hot water. Achieving President Biden’s goal of net zero by 2050 would require switching these homes to electricity. Twenty-two states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico have already made commitments to scrub electricity by 2050 or sooner.

Cooking with an electrical slow cooker and rice cooker. Photo:Birdies100

Dozens of U.S. cities have also instituted or are considering banning natural gas in recent construction; nonetheless, a federal appeals court just overturned the ban on natural gas in recent construction in Berkeley, California, the primary U.S. city to ascertain a ban. To counter the gas ban trend, 20 states with Republican-controlled legislatures have adopted “preemption laws” to ban their cities from banning natural gas.

In contrast to California and Washington, which banned gas in recent construction through constructing codes, Recent York could soon develop into the primary state to ban gas appliances through laws. Governor Hochul’s bill would ban gas and other fossil fuel use for appliances in recent construction of single-family homes or buildings with three stories or less starting at the top of 2025; at the top of 2028, gas can be banned in recent business buildings or structures with 4 stories or more. There can be exemptions for restaurants, laundromats, hospitals, backup generators, and manufacturing facilities. Hochul’s proposal depends on passing the state budget, which is already late.

What if you might have a gas stove?

Anyone who spends a whole lot of time cooking on a gas stove is at greater risk from its pollutants. Children, pregnant women, and people with respiratory problems are especially vulnerable.

The perfect solution to avoid indoor air pollution within the kitchen is to change to an electrical or induction stove. Electric stoves cook food and not using a flame and may have coils that sit on the cooktop, or heating elements beneath a glass surface. They’re healthier and safer than gas stoves, and have outperformed gas stoves in lots of Consumer Reports tests.

An induction cooktop. Photo: Grillo

Induction cooktops are a variety of electric cooktop, but they produce energy through an electromagnetic field beneath a glass surface. The warmth is definitely created inside magnetic cookware: stainless-steel, iron, or induction-compatible cookware. Induction stoves are safer than gas stoves because they produce fewer indoor air pollutants, the glass surface never gets hot, they cook faster, are easy to scrub, and are thrice more energy efficient. The drawbacks are that induction stoves could be twice as costly as gas stoves, the electricity in your kitchen may have to be upgraded and rewired, your electric bills could go up, and you might must purchase recent pots and pans.

While President Biden doesn’t support a ban on gas stoves, he’s encouraging electrification through his Inflation Reduction Act, which provides a tax credit for as much as $840 for a recent electric or induction cooktop, or electric wall oven. It also provides as much as $500 toward the prices of rewiring.

In case you cannot switch to electric, there are other measures you possibly can take to guard your health.

  • In case you cannot afford an induction stove, consider purchasing a conveyable induction burner which doesn’t require additional wiring.
  • Install a ventilation hood over the cooktop, ideally vented to the outside, and use it at any time when cooking.
  • Use an air purifier with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) and carbon filters. Most won’t remove toxic gases but will lessen particulate matter; some special air purifiers can filter out volatile organic compounds.
  • Open windows whenever you cook and use a fan within the window to flow into the air.
  • Use back burners as an alternative of front ones; use fewer burners and cook at lower heat.
  • Avoid long cooking times on the stove or within the oven.
  • Use electric appliances when possible: microwaves, toaster ovens, kettles, slow cookers, pressure cookers, or rice cookers.

“Ventilation is completely key,” said Kennard, adding that it’s unfortunately not getting enough attention within the gas stove discussion. “We saw this through COVID. It took a protracted time for people to know that alongside masks and vaccines, actually ventilating rooms was probably the most effective ways of stopping the transmission of the disease.  That very same principle applies to providing clean fresh air to whatever space you’re cooking in—it’s central.”


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