By Tawny Patrick
Recent studies have revealed the potential health risks associated with gas stoves, including a link to childhood asthma. This sparked a debate in Washington after a commissioner of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission suggested that his agency might move to regulate these kitchen appliances. Alexander Hoehn-Saric, the agency’s chairman, issued a statement saying that “Research indicates that emissions from gas stoves can be hazardous, and the C.P.S.C. is looking for ways to reduce related indoor air quality hazards. But to be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the C.P.S.C. has no proceeding to do so.”
For the last fifty years or so, researchers have shown that exposure to gas stoves can be harmful to humans. Gas stoves emit poisonous gases called nitrogen oxides, including nitrogen dioxide, which is a respiratory irritant known to trigger asthma. A study published last year found that families who use gas stoves in homes with poor ventilation, or without range hoods, can blow past the national standard for safe hourly outdoor exposure to nitrogen oxides within just a few minutes.
Ms. Seals co-authored a paper published in December that found that gas-burning stoves may be linked to nearly 13 percent of childhood cases of asthma in the U.S. Past research shows that gas stoves led to more exacerbated asthma symptoms as well. Children and adults with chronic respiratory conditions are most at risk of negative health effects linked to gas stoves.
In addition to asthma, there are other health dangers associated with gas stoves. Researchers who collected 234 samples of unburned natural gas from 69 homes around Boston found 21 toxic pollutants in the gas, including benzene, a known carcinogen.
Experts say that the average person should use caution with gas stoves, but these findings don’t necessarily mean you will get sick. If you have a history of asthma or other health problems, you may want to consider switching from a gas stove to, say, an induction range when you are in the market for a new appliance. For those with a gas stove currently, make sure your home is well-ventilated, always use the exhaust hood when the stove is on, and you can also try an air purifier with a HEPA filter to mitigate the risk.