In the final days of 2022, while most people were busy with Christmas and New Year’s, a concerning new study came out. The study, published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that the health implications of gas cooking are largely unrecognized and that, among other things, gas stoves are responsible for 12.7% of childhood asthma cases.
As surprising as this may seem, it’s not the first study to cast doubt on the health standards of gas stoves. The damage they cause is so pervasive that the US Consumer Product Safety (USCPS) is now considering a ban on them.
Gas stoves are the new cigarettes
The study that came out last week concluded that all in all, gas stoves are responsible for giving asthma to 650,000 children in the U.S. While the study did an important job of quantifying the damage, the problem was well-known. Wynne Armand, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, wrote in September at Harvard Health Publishing that during 2019 alone, almost two million cases worldwide of new childhood asthma were estimated to be due to nitrogen dioxide pollution — and nitrogen dioxide is a well-known pollutant released by gas stoves.
Several previous studies also documented the link between gas stoves and asthma. In fact, a meta-analysis (a study of studies) concluded that children living in homes with gas stoves were 42% more likely to have asthma symptoms and were 24% more likely to develop lifelong asthma than those living in homes with electric stoves and ovens.
Until recently, this was largely ignored by lawmakers. But in an interview with Bloomberg, a US Consumer Product Safety commissioner finally conceded that gas stove usage is a “hidden hazard.”
“This is a hidden hazard,” Richard Trumka Jr., an agency commissioner, told Bloomberg in an interview. “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” adding that the agency plans “to take action” to address the indoor pollution caused by stoves.
However, in a subsequent statement to CNN, the agency said it has not yet proposed any tangible regulation on gas stoves, and any such action would be “lengthy.”
“Agency staff plans to start gathering data and perspectives from the public on potential hazards associated with gas stoves, and proposed solutions to those hazards later this year,” the commission said in a statement. “Commission staff also continues to work with voluntary standards organizations to examine gas stove emissions and address potential hazards.”
The situation would be complicated as it is, but of course, the fossil fuel industry had to step in.
Fossil fuel and politics
While at the country level, there’s no action to ban or address gas stoves yet, several cities across the US have already banned natural gas hookups in all new building construction in an attempt to reduce greenhouse emissions — most notably San Francisco and New York. But as of February 2022, 20 Republican-controlled states have passed so-called “preemption laws” that prohibit cities from banning natural gas. In other words, for health or for emissions, banning natural gas is illegal in almost half of the US.
“To me that’s what’s interesting about this new trend, it seems like states are trying to eliminate the possibility before cities try to catch onto this,” Sarah Fox, an associate law professor at Northern Illinois University School of Law, told CNN last year. “The natural gas industry… has been very aggressive in getting this passed.”
Nevertheless, Congress passed an act that includes a $840 rebate for American consumers who choose to switch from gas to electric
It remains to be seen whether the USCPS agency will take any tangible measures to reduce the use of gas stoves, and what that means for the states that passed the pro-gas legislature.
In the meantime, even if you only have a gas stove and aren’t even using it, you could be exposed to harmful pollutants. A 2022 study by researchers at Stanford University found that gas stoves regularly leak, and around 40 million gas stoves in the U.S. leak enough to pose problems for human health, in addition to producing greenhouse gas emissions. It seems like there’s never been more reason to ditch gas stoves.