About 40 percent of U.S. households cook with gas stoves. A recent study reported that “12.7 percent of current childhood asthma in the US is attributable to gas stove use” (Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2023;20(1):75). However, the authors did not show that gas stoves cause asthma. They presented evidence that gas stoves emit gases such as nitrogen dioxide, that can worsen symptoms in people who have asthma. Any air pollutant can cause an asthmatic to cough, wheeze and become short of breath. These authors have not demonstrated cause-and-effect, they only found an association between gas stoves and asthmatic symptoms. Several other studies have found the same associations between gas stoves and childhood asthma (Int J Epidemiol, Dec 2013;42(6):1724-37).
Gas stoves can emit air pollutants that can irritate the lungs:
• Nitrogen dioxide (NO2): Breathing NO2 can cause asthma attacks in asthmatic children (Eur Resp J, 2011;38: 303-309) and is associated with increased risk for asthma in children (Leuk Res, 2013;42:1724–1737). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates outdoor NO2 emissions, but there are no similar standards for indoor exposure.
• Benzene: Unburned natural gas that leaks from stoves contains benzene, an established carcinogen (Lancet Oncology, Dec, 2017;18(12):1574-1575).
• Airborne small particles (diameter less than 2.5 microns) from cooking with gas are known to cause coughing, shortness of breath and lung damage in healthy people (Exp & Mol Med, 2020; 52:311–317 (2020).
Backlash Against Gas Stoves
• July 23, 2019: Berkeley, California was the first US city to ban natural gas.
• February 2, 2021: Seattle, Washington banned natural gas in new buildings in appliances such as gas furnaces and water heaters.
• December 15, 2021: New York City banned gas in new buildings.
• May 27, 2022: Los Angeles, California banned most gas appliances in new homes
• October 26, 2022: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s meeting minutes listed 15 different alternatives to natural gas.
• January 11, 2023: A U.S. federal agency is considering a ban on gas stoves.
• February 1, 2023: The U.S. Department of Energy set first-of-their-kind limits on energy consumption for gas stoves.
At this point, it is still controversial whether gas stoves are harmful. If you use a gas stove:
• Turn on the overhead vent or exhaust fan whenever you use it.
• Change the filter on the exhaust fan frequently, perhaps every 4-6 months.
• When you can, use a microwave or other electric appliances to heat foods.
Gas water heaters, furnaces and driers can also leak pollutants, so they should be in your garage rather than in your house.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com