By Zoe Soderquist
Recently, you may have seen a large number of news outlets reporting on recent findings that gas stoves are unhealthy and affect individuals suffering from chronic disease the most. For instance, a study from the Second Edition of the Air Pollution Impact on Children’s Health found that the use of gas stoves correlated with 13% of childhood asthma in the United States. Just this month, the American Public Health Association released a statement calling the stoves “a public health concern.”
This type of stove, found in over 40% of homes in the United States, leaks greenhouse gasses into the environment and the homes themselves. Studies have documented myriad forms of air pollution from gas stoves, including methane, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other forms of fine particulate matter. A 2022 analysis from Stanford University found that most of the leaks actually happened when stoves were turned off.
“Simply owning a natural gas stove and having natural gas pipes and fittings in your home leads to more emissions over 24 hours than the amount emitted while the burners are on,” says Rob Jackson, one of the Stanford researchers. The team looked at 53 stoves in California homes to conduct their analysis.
As a result of these newfound studies, nearly 100 cities have adopted ordinances banning gas hookups in new buildings. In New York, a proposition has been floated to phase out the sale of fossil fuel heating equipment in existing buildings starting in 2030, and that future buildings be built all-electric as of 2025.
In opposition to this, the gas industry fought back against claims that gas stoves are harmful. Gas organizations persuaded lawmakers in twenty states to pass bills preventing regulation on gas stoves for being too restrictive and costly. In Washington D.C., both the Biden Administration and numerous representatives have ruled out the possibility of a nationwide ban.
“But to be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) has no proceeding to do so,” Biden said. “CPSC is researching gas emissions in stoves and exploring new ways to address health risks. CPSC also is actively engaged in strengthening voluntary safety standards for gas stoves. This is part of our product safety mission – learning about hazards and working to make products safer.”
Last year, the American Gas Association worked with toxicologist Julie Goodman to help counter claims of health concerns. She testified on behalf of local gas providers against the gas stove bans in an Oregon County public court hearing. She held that such studies were “missing important context” and that the levels of pollutants in the kitchen were negligible.
So, is it ultimately worth it to make the switch? There are some small-scale changes that can mitigate the perceived health effects of gas cooking before committing to full removal, including turning on your hood each time you cook. Harvard Health suggests that to vent toxic chemicals to the outdoors, as well as open windows to improve ventilation.
But, moving to other cooktops is certainly a viable alternative. “The most surefire way to eliminate risk of childhood asthma from gas stoves is to move to a clean cooking alternative like an induction stovetop or electric stovetop,” according to Talor Gruenwald, a research associate at nonprofit Rewiring America.
Many professional chefs have touted that alternate types of stoves actually improve the cooking experience. Detroit Chef Jon Kung has stated that induction stove tops are better to work with due to their responsiveness, power, and ease of cleaning. Culinary Sustainability Consultant and Chef Christopher Galarza believes that electric is the future due to its unique capacity to improve working conditions for staff, decreasing temperatures inside kitchens while posing a low cost barrier to entry.
As new stove options continue to be made, and clean alternatives explored, the debate surrounding gas stoves will continue.