I’m sure you have all heard the rumor that gas stoves are going to be banned. The uproar surrounding those rumors was significant. To clarify the rumors, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that it is only planning to collect public comments on the stoves and is not considering a ban. However, there are a growing number of studies that show health risks associated with the indoor air pollution linked to gas stoves. Let’s talk about what you should know.
What do we know about the health risks of gas stoves?
For the last 50 years or so, researchers have shown that exposure to gas stoves can be harmful to humans. There were two new studies published in 2022 that highlighted the risks associated with the noxious fumes from gas stoves.
There are two basic categories of concerning fumes related to gas stoves. The first is the unburned natural gas that can escape before a flame ignites, or can leak from a gas hook-up. This gas is over 90% methane and is a potent greenhouse gas. The second category includes the indoor pollutants created by the combustion of gas when the burner is on. The most concerning of these are nitrogen oxides, including nitrogen dioxide.
One study, looking at the nitrogen oxides produced when using a gas stove, showed that families who use gas stoves in homes with poor ventilation, or without range hoods, can go well past the national standard for safe hourly outdoor exposure to nitrogen oxides within just a few minutes. This study also showed that more than three quarters of methane escaping from gas stoves does so when it is NOT in use, most likely through imperfect pipe fittings. Only one stove, out of well over 50 tested, did not leak when turned off. This is generally at levels not noticed by the residents of the home.
The other recent study showed trace quantities of 21 different hazardous chemicals in the indoor air of homes with gas stoves.
Why is this important?
Even short exposures to high levels of nitrogen oxides can aggravate symptoms in people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma and COPD. In addition, there is substantial evidence that long-term exposure increases the risk of developing asthma in people with no underlying respiratory problems. This can affect both children and adults but is certainly a big concern for children.
The 21 different toxic pollutants found in one study includes known carcinogens.
Of course, having a gas stove does not mean you are guaranteed to develop asthma or cancer, but it does increase your risk.
Research shows that when a gas stove is used to cook dinner, more children need to use their inhalers that night.
What should you do to reduce the health risks associated with gas stoves?
There are several ways to approach this issue.
You might want to consider switching to an electric or induction range when you are in the market for a new stove, especially if someone in your household has any respiratory conditions.
For those who have a gas stove currently and want to continue to use it, here are some ways to lower the risks associated with it:
VENTILATE – Try to ventilate your kitchen as much as possible when using your stove, and even when it’s not in use by opening windows or doors.
Use your exhaust hood EVERY TIME you use your stove – Most people only turn the vent hood on when they are cooking something that smokes or has a strong smell. You should be using it every time you turn on the gas, even if you’re just boiling water. This works best when the hood blows the air outside but can still help even if it doesn’t. If your hood does not vent the air outside, or you’re not sure if it does, open a window near the stove and consider putting a fan in the window. If you do not have an exhaust hood, you should seriously consider having one installed.
Try to use the stove less often – Consider an electric kettle to boil water. I have one and absolutely love it. Think about using the microwave or toaster oven as alternatives when you can. You can also get a single portable induction burner, a rice cooker, or other small electric appliance alternatives.
Consider an air purifier – An air purifier with a HEPA filter can reduce the level of nitrogen oxides within the air in your home. If you get one, put it in or near your kitchen for best results.
Outdoor cooking – When the weather allows, cooking outdoors on a grill is another way to limit the use of your gas stove. Just be sure the grill is far enough from open windows or doors so that fumes from the grill are not entering the house.
By following these few simple steps, you can decrease the effects of emissions from a gas stove.
If you have any questions about gas stoves, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor