As one of the criteria for “Sustainable Living” is living with better health, here’s new research about health problems caused by an appliance that’s in a huge number of U.S. homes, the gas stove. As it’s off most of the time I never thought about health consequences. Not so. Comments afterwards.
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One in eight cases of asthma in US kids
caused by gas stove pollution – study
Emission of toxic chemicals and carcinogens from gas
stoves creating indoor pollution worse than car traffic
Fri 6 Jan 2023
Around one in eight cases of asthma in children in the US is due to the pollution given off by cooking on gas stoves, new research has found, amid moves by Joe Biden’s administration to consider the regulation, or even banning, of gas cookers sales to Americans.
Around a third of US households have gas stoves in their kitchens, with the gas industry long touting the method as the cleanest and most efficient way to cook food.
However, research has repeatedly found the emission of toxic chemicals and carcinogens from gas stoves, even when they are turned off, is creating a miasma of indoor pollution that can be several times worse than the pollution experienced outdoors from car traffic and heavy industry.
A new study has now sketched out the risk being posed to children exposed to pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide that spew from the stoves, finding that 12.7% of all current cases of childhood asthma in the US are due to the use of gas stoves.
Researchers said that this means that with around 5 million children in the US experiencing asthma, around 650,000 people aged under 18 could be suffering asthma attacks and having to use inhalers because of the presence of gas stoves in their homes.
Brady Seals, manager of the carbon free buildings program at RMI who undertook the research with epidemiologists in the US and Australia, said the prevalence of asthma due to gas stoves is similar to the amount of asthma caused by second hand smoking, which she called “eye popping”. Seals added:
“We knew this was a problem but
we didn’t know how bad. This
study shows that if we got rid of
gas stoves we would prevent 12.7%
of childhood asthma cases, which I
think most people would want to do.”
The possibility of banning new gas stoves, challenging their entrenched status in millions of American homes, was raised by Richard Trumka, a commissioner at the US consumer product safety commission last month.
Trumka said the pollution created by gas stoves is “concerning” and that the commission, which can set standards for consumer products, will consider regulating them this year. Trumka said …
“We need to be talking about regulating
gas stoves, whether that’s drastically
improving emissions or banning gas
stoves entirely. And I think we ought to
keep that possibility of a ban in mind,
because it’s a powerful tool in our tool
belt and it’s a real possibility here.”
It’s a terrible irony that we spend most of our time indoors and yet there are no indoor pollution limits.
The commission has come under pressure from Democrats to act on gas stoves, with a recent letter from a group of lawmakers, including the US senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, calling on the agency to set tough new performance standards for gas appliances and to launch a public education campaign on the dangers of cooking with gas.
A lack of options for low income people, and those who rent, to get rid of their gas stoves is another obstacle, although the Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Democrats last summer, included a rebate of up to $840 for people who buy a new electric induction cooking appliance.
This rebate is primarily aimed at propelling the electrification of appliances in the US to move away from fossil fuels that worsen the climate crisis. Places such as New York City have banned gas hookups in new buildings to help accelerate this transition, although other jurisdictions at state level, such as Ohio, Oklahoma and Louisiana, have forbidden local authorities from doing likewise.
The new research, which analyzed the risk posed to children from gas emissions and the proportion of houses that have gas stoves, found that having the stoves greatly increased the risk of asthma, confirming previous studies that have looked into the issue in various countries.
Last year, researchers at Stanford discovered that levels of nitrogen dioxide emitted from gas stoves and ovens can rise above safe standards set for outdoor pollution by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within just a few minutes, with the problem particularly acute in smaller kitchens.
The EPA currently has no standard for safe levels of the pollutant indoors, with the potential health problems posed by gas stoves still largely unknown or overlooked by many people who use them. Using range hoods, opening windows and electrifying aspects of cooking, such as by using an electric kettle to boil water, can all lessen the exposure to the pollution. Seals said:
“I’ve worked on cookstoves my whole career,
including people cooking with charcoal in
the global south, and up to three years ago
I would’ve been shocked if you told me the
health impact of gas stoves.
“It’s a terrible irony that we spend most of our
time indoors and yet there are no indoor pollution
limits. There is still a lack of awareness of this
problem, hopefully that is changing but it needs
to happen at a much quicker speed. It will take
a mix of consumer excitement about induction
stoves and prices to come down for new stoves.
“We switched from coal to gas and this shift to
electric will happen too, but it will take some
work because our stoves are an appliance every-
one interacts with, people feel attached to them.”
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My cooking expertise is limited to Kraft dinner, which was a very inexpensive and filling meal I ate extensively in my undergraduate days. Thankfully, my spouse enjoys cooking and prepares wonderful meals. And she demanded a gas stove, because it provided the even-heating she needed. When we developed our 6th Garden Atrium home, induction electric cooktops came out. We found that they not only provided even heat for cooking, but they use such little power, we didn’t need to increase our photovoltaic array one iota.
What I did discover: If you set a burner on “high,” the moment you press the button, it’s instantly on high. There’s no warming up time. Also …
If you’re using one burner and happen to put your hand on a neighboring burner, there’s no heat whatever. And the moment you remove your cooking utensil from a burner, you can put your hand on the burner you just used and, again, there’s no heat whatever. The heat only transmits to a metal surface, so it’s a nice safety feature. Adding comments from Trina …
“Cooking on an induction electric stove top takes some getting used to. It heats up faster than anything I have ever used, so you must watch the pot or pan until you get used to how fast it heats. As it’s also perfectly flat, sometimes pans will wobble a bit as you stir, which takes some getting used to. A pan needs a surface to which a magnet will attach, which excludes aluminum. And the bottom surface needs to be free of “gunk” to work.
“It’s different, but it’s also really nice to cook on, and easy to clean!”