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HEALTH Matters

The Gas Stove Debate

Dr. Kirk Sperber, Allergy & Immunology

January 20, 2023

The Gas Stove Debate

Plenty of headlines were made earlier this month when Richard L. Trumka Jr., a Commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), threw some cold water on the use of gas stoves in the home.

“This is a hidden hazard,” Trumka told Bloomberg News, indicating that a ban on such appliances could be the result: “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

While the comments seemed to come out of the blue, they actually were the result of a letter sent to CPSC Chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric by 20 congressional Democrats asking the agency to  “take action to address [the] risks” of household use of a gas stove.

According to the letter:

Over a third of American households – more than 40 million homes – use a gas stove for cooking. Gas stoves emit high levels of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). A range of studies have shown that, when used without adequate ventilation, cooking with a gas stove can raise indoor concentrations of these pollutants to levels that the Environmental Protection Agency considers to be unsafe even outdoors.

Over a third of American households – more than 40 million homes – use a gas stove for cooking. Gas stoves emit high levels of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). A range of studies have shown that, when used without adequate ventilation, cooking with a gas stove can raise indoor concentrations of these pollutants to levels that the Environmental Protection Agency considers to be unsafe even outdoors.

The resulting firestorm of controversy about how the government was looking to “take your gas stove” has caused the CPSC to walk it back a bit. In a follow-up interview with CNN, Trumka said: “We are not looking to go into anyone’s homes and take away items that are already there. We don’t do that. If and when we get to regulation on the topic, it’s always forward-looking. You know, it applies to new products. Consumers always have the choice of what to keep in their homes and we want to make sure they do that with full information.”

The commissioner also noted that consumers who switch from a gas stove to an electric one are eligible to a rebate of up to $840 through the Inflation Reduction Act. 

So What Are the Dangers?

One of the main concerns here is that gas stoves can give off high levels of NO2, which could potentially lead to asthma in kids.

Nitrogen dioxide can act as an irritant to the lungs and can be a potential trigger for asthma. However, it does not mean that gas stoves cause childhood asthma. The most common factors for asthma are a family history of the disease, allergies, respiratory difficulties in infancy, exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution and obesity. 

Asthma can be triggered by mites, air pollution, animal dander, pollen and mold. It is not possible to say that asthma will be exacerbated by exposure to a gas stove. The association between asthma and gas stoves does not mean that the gas stoves caused asthma. The original study that set off the current debate also did not control for other risk factors for asthma like allergies, family history, or exposure to pollution. In addition, while poor ventilation of a gas stove can exacerbate an asthmatic or allergic condition, but there is no proof that there is a direct link between having a stove and developing such a condition.

There have been other studies that have associated asthma with gas stoves, but the findings have not been consistent. I do not think that the current study would justify changing from a gas stove to an electric one. In addition, the percentage of asthma attributable to gas stoves in the recent study – almost 13% – is extremely high, similar to secondhand smoke. The percentage seems excessive.

The story is different in some third-world countries, where burning wood, coal or even dung for fuel indoors can have an effect similar to prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke. Such conditions are thankfully a rarity here in the U.S.

Should you consider switching from gas to electric when it comes to cooking? The data really is not there to make that conclusion. Simply put, this is an area that needs more study.

The Gas Stove Debate

Dr. Kirk Sperber is an allergist and immunologist at Scarsdale Medical Group in Harrison. For an appointment, call 914-723-8100.

 

Similar Topics: consumer tips , asthma , environment , Kirk Sperber , Sperber , gas stoves , electric stoves , CPSC , Richard L. Trumka Jr. , Alexander Hoehn-Saric , allergies , nitrogen dioxide , carbon monoxide