When you go to cook something, you probably start with some chopping, cutting, and slicing. You may mix, mash, or blend. Eventually, you make your way over to the stovetop and hear the click, click, click of the gas stove coming to life.
Millions of homes and apartments across the US rely on gas appliances for heating and cooking. Since their creation, gas stoves were widely accepted to be safe appliances, but a new review by the Rocky Mountain Institute and multiple environmental advocacy groups say otherwise.
Gas stoves make indoor air up to five times dirtier than outdoor air
According to the 2020 American Lung Association State of the Air report, half of Americans live in areas with unhealthy air, which has terrible effects on people’s ability to breathe. Air pollution can even cause you to gain weight.
While we are aware of this information, indoor air pollution is largely unregulated.
This new review brings together decades of scientific research, which have shown that gas stoves release toxic pollutants that can damage human health.
According to the new report, gas stoves are not only making people sick but are contributing pollution that makes the air inside people’s homes up to two to five times dirtier than the air outside their door.
Lead author Brady Seals writes that little attention has been paid to this issue despite there being knowledge of the health risks for 20 years.
“The opportunity is ripe for lawmakers and regulators to turn their attention to safeguarding public health by reducing building emissions and to focus on creating healthier homes when rebuilding from the current crisis,” Seals writes.
The report was released on May 5, amid the global coronavirus pandemic, which has shed more light on how air pollution affects people’s health. Researchers have established a correlation between air pollution and coronavirus-related deaths.
“As a global pandemic shines a new light on health, air pollution, and the disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations,” Seals writes. “It exposes the need to protect the public from risks both outside and inside the home.”
The health dangers of gas stoves
Cooking with gas, which about a third of U.S. households do, emits nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, in addition to the particle pollution that all types of stoves produce.
According to the report, even small increases in short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide can increase asthma risks for children.
Health effects of nitrogen dioxide on children include:
- Increased risk of childhood asthma
- Aggravated respiratory symptoms
- Irritated airways
- IQ learning deficits
- Increased susceptibility to lung infections
- Deleted tissue antioxidant defenses
- Changed lung function
- Cardiovascular effects
- Increased susceptibility to allergens
One analysis from the review found that children who live in homes with gas stoves have a 42% higher chance of having symptoms of asthma.
Another study done in Australia attributed 12.3% of all childhood asthma cases to gas stoves.
Nitrogen dioxide is also dangerous to those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, making the disease worse, and is also linked to health issues such as heart conditions, diabetes, and cancer.
Those with older, poorly maintained stoves are at even more risk, as those can pollute even more and may emit carbon monoxide.
While children are more susceptible, the report notes that lower-income populations and communities of color may be disproportionately impacted, too, as these groups have risk factors including increased exposure due to smaller and older homes and higher rates of asthma.
“Like coronavirus, gas stove pollution may affect lower-income families disproportionately,” Dr. Robert Gould, president of PSR-San Francisco Bay Area and associate adjunct professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, said in the report. “These communities must be prioritized when designing incentives and policies to support transitions to clean electric alternatives.”
Why U.S. kitchens should go electric
Switching to electric stoves would improve indoor air quality around the country, according to the report.
A new UCLA report found that if all residential gas appliances in California were changed to clean electricity, the state could monetize $3.5 billion in health benefits per year.
In January, the Massachusetts Medical Society became the first medical body to formally recognize the health risk of gas stoves and committed themselves to educate others about the issue.
As this issue is further researched, medical professionals will play an important role in not only raising awareness but encouraging people to make the switch to a safer alternative.
Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.