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The Science Behind The Health Risks Of  Gas Stoves

Though scientists have linked gas stoves with many health hazards since the 1970s, the recent study and the comments made by a federal agency official have created a furor on the internet.


A new study published in December by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health linked gas stoves to one in eight childhood asthma cases. US commissioner at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Richard Trumka, suggests banning them based on their "hidden hazards," The Republicans are not happy with the mere suggestion.


Here are some answers to questions based on expert opinions on how dangerous gas stoves are, who's most at risk, and how to stay safe with a gas stove.

Are gas stoves a source of indoor air pollution?


Yes, gas stoves are a source of indoor air pollution whether they are in use or not. When they’re in use, burning gas creates heat causing nitrogen and oxygen to combine and form nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, collectively known as NOx, which can irritate the lungs. 

“We’ve known for a long time that [nitrogen dioxide] has many harmful effects on health,” says Josiah Kephart, an assistant professor in the department of environmental and occupational health at Drexel University.

Along with nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, cooking with gas also emits carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and particulate matter as small as  2.5 microns or less (PM2.5), a known respiratory irritant. All of these have harmful health impacts and can affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Research shows gas stoves emit toxic compounds even when not in use.  These include xylene, toluene, benzene, and ethylbenzene, which can cause respiratory problems and cancer. One of the most worrisome among these compounds is benzene, a carcinogen. A study by PSE Healthy Energy found gas stoves can emit as much benzene as a cigarette, making them similar to passive smoke. The same study found benzene in 99% of samples it took in homes in California.

“You can achieve the same level of benzene just from having a stove that’s off in your house as you’d expect to see as having a house with a smoker in it,” said Seth Shonkoff, the executive director of PSE Healthy Energy and associate researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

Can Exposure To NO2 Result In Asthma?

In 1992, scientists at the EPA and Duke University found that exposure to nitrogen dioxide from a gas stove increases the risks of developing a respiratory illness in children by about 20 percent. Since then, several other studies have documented the health risks associated with gas stove exposure.

 A 2013 meta-analysis of 41 studies found that gas cooking increases the risk of asthma in children and that NO2 exposure leads to wheezing. A recent study published last December linked 12.7 percent of childhood asthma cases in the U.S. to gas stove use. 

According to the Guardian, Talor Gruenwald, the lead author on the new asthma study and researcher at Rewiring America, said the finding “demonstrates that this is a real public health challenge that we have to address.”

The work, published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that the rates of asthma caused by gas stoves are even higher in certain states, including Illinois (21.1%), California (20.1%), and New York (18.8%).

The American Gas Association (AGA), a natural gas industry group, issued a statement pushing back against the December 2022 study. The statement claimed the scientists did not conduct measurements of real-life appliance use and ignored some scientific literature on this topic. The AGA cited a separate study that found no evidence of a link between cooking with gas and asthma symptoms of the diagnosis.

“Most of the studies on the health effects of cooking gas have been observational because it would be unethical to intentionally expose children to environmental risks,” says Ulrike Gehring, an associate professor at the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and a co-author of the 2013 meta-analysis. 

Some past studies have, however, measured NO2 concentrations in various indoor settings. They found that people with asthma have more severe symptoms when they are exposed to higher levels of this gas.

Although, observational studies cannot prove that cooking with gas causes asthma. Gehring says that accounting for other risk factors, such as parental asthma and secondhand tobacco smoke, “increases our confidence” that it does.

Does Gas Stoves Contribute To Climate Change?

Yes, burning natural gas produces carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Besides carbon dioxide, unburned natural gas contains another GHG,  methane,  a culprit for climate change. 

In a  2022 study by author Eric Lebel and his colleagues, they found that gas stoves leak this unburned methane, which is not directly harmful to human health but accumulates in the atmosphere where it traps heat and contributes to climate change

Lebel and his team found that methane emissions from gas stoves in U.S. homes could have as much impact on the climate as half a million cars, and the problem isn’t just our stoves themselves

“We’ve known for years that there are methane leaks in the [natural gas] distribution system, especially in cities on the East Coast, where the infrastructure is a lot older,” Lebel says. “And then, even further upstream than that, there are leaks from the transmission and production.” 


“All of those leaks add up and contribute to the climate impact of the natural gas supply chain,” he adds.

What about other gas appliances?

Other gas appliances such as Gas water heaters, furnaces, and driers also produce emissions and could leak methane as well. 

People may not be exposed to these emissions as directly as they are when cooking on a stove, but these appliances still produce pollution, said Lebel. The only way to completely prevent that is to use electric appliances, he added.,


Does using a hood/vent make a difference?


Absolutely yes. It is vital to turn on the vent while cooking to exhaust the air pollution outside the home. Though it is not an ideal solution since it just turns indoor air pollution into outdoor air pollution,  it’s better than having it in high concentrations in homes where it can harm the respiratory system.

Are There Any Alternatives  To Gas Stoves?

Electric stoves can be an alternative to gas stoves. Electric stoves mainly come in two varieties, Induction and Standard. Standard electric stoves run electricity through a wire to generate thermal heat, while induction stoves generate heat electromagnetically and are in demand.

Switching from gas to induction can be costly, as electric stoves are much more expensive. In addition, switching from gas to induction also comes with other costs. Since induction stoves do not plug into standard wall outlets, an electrician will need to rewire the kitchen.

Moreover, certain types of pots or pans will only work on an induction stove. If you own cookware made from copper or aluminum, it will need to be replaced.

How to reduce indoor air pollution from gas stoves?


For those who lack a hood over their stove, Shonkoff said that even opening the windows is an excellent tactic to clear the air or simply put a fan in the window to help suck the indoor air out. Air purifiers with charcoal filters also remove harmful benzene and other air toxins.

Of course, the best way to cut down on gas stove pollution is not to have a gas stove in the first place. But if not, it’s a good idea to take some precautions to reduce the risks to yourself and your household. State and local governments are taking steps to limit gas use in new buildings to help meet their climate goals npr reported. As part of the big climate-focused budget bill called the Inflation Reduction Act, incentives are offered to people who switch to electric stoves. 


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