Gas stoves are a significant health risk. This is true especially for children and the elderly. People who live in homes with gas stoves have more asthma, lung disease, and perhaps even cancer. We explain here the risks and offer steps that families who live in a home with a gas stove can take for better health. You will learn why some health professional societies and governments are urging a switch to electricity for cooking.

“Gas stoves” refers to cooking using methane (also called “natural gas”) or propane. Burning these fossil fuels releases toxic fumes into the air of the kitchen: nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, formaldehyde, and particulates. Most of these have no smell so that people are unaware of the danger. The concentrations of nitrous oxide in the kitchens of homes with gas stoves have been recorded to be triple the levels considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be safe for outdoor air (EPA does not regulate indoor air quality).

Cooking with charcoal, coal, or wood is common in many developing countries and is even more hazardous. All this combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases which add to climate change and creates even more health problems.

The biggest risk from gas stoves is childhood asthma. A review of 41 studies involving children concluded that those living in a home with a gas stove have a 42% increased chance of having asthma while living in the home, and a 21% increase of asthma later in their lives.1   The results are similar for younger or older children, and approximately the same for studies from North America, Europe, or Asia-Pacific.  This is almost as bad as living with a tobacco smoker!

Advice for Families
The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have each sounded the alarm. They urge health professionals to ask patients about home cooking practices and to ask communities to transition away from gas.

The best health advice for families is to choose electric cooking when renting, buying, or building a home. It is interesting that professional chefs around the world are starting to prefer electric cooking, particularly using stoves with “induction” electric burners, because of electric’s superior cooking performance!.2 Induction electric burners are also highly efficient and are likely to save families money because gas is so expensive.

Here are six easy tips for all families, and especially for those who are stuck with gas. First, open kitchen windows to bring in fresh air whenever possible. Remember that a gas stove releases toxins into your home even when the burners are turned off. Second, if there is an exhaust fan over the stove, always turn on the fan whenever you cook. This helps remove smelly odors and also the dangerous chemicals that have no odor such as nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide. Third, use the rear burners for cooking as your first choice because the exhaust fan is more effective at removing air pollution from the back burner.

Fourth, close doors leading from the kitchen to keep fumes out of other rooms. Americans spend more than 90% of their days indoors, so the quality of indoor air throughout the home is important. Fifth, turn off burners as soon as they are not needed. Lastly, keep vulnerable people out of the kitchen while cooking is underway, particularly children under seven years old, anyone with asthma, and those with severe heart problems.

Better health is available when we switch to electric stoves, and even more so when our communities switch to generating electricity from renewable energy such as solar and wind power instead of burning fossil fuels. Ask your elected leaders to end any financial subsidies given to fossil fuel companies, to adopt building codes that discourage installing gas stoves and heaters, and to make a plan to abandon coal and gas for generating electricity.

More information on gas stoves is found at https://www.psr.org and from a new patient brochure from My Green Doctor that is found by aiming your smart phone camera at this QR code or using this link: https://bit.ly/3NAl8b .

Choose your stove wisely with health in mind and cook safely every day!

Authors:
Barbara Gottlieb ([email protected]) is Program Director for the Environment & Health Program at Physicians for Social Responsibility in Washington DC.

 

 

Todd L Sack MD FACP ([email protected]) practices medicine in Jacksonville, Florida and is Executive Director of the My Green Doctor Foundation.

 

 

References:
1.  W Lin et al., “Meta-analysis of the effects of indoor nitrogen dioxide and gas cooking on asthma and wheeze in children.” Intl J Epidemiology 2013, 42: 1724-1737.
2.  https://www.psr.org/blog/new-holiday-cooking-safety-guide-offers-tips-on-how-to-avoid-unhealthy-air-pollution-from-gas-stoves/ Accessed 8.7.2022
3.  JM Logue et al., “Pollutant Exposures from Natural Gas Cooking Burners: A Simulation-Based Assessment for Southern California”, Environ Health Perspect 2014, 122:43–50.

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