gas stove close up of flame
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
July 10, 2024 ·  4 min read

Research Reveals That a Household Appliance Once Deemed Safe Could Be Endangering Our Lives

Gas stoves are often touted as being superior to electric ones. Their mechanism is fairly simple. When you turn on a burner, you’re opening the gas line, which then mixes with oxygen. As you turn the knob, it sets off a spark to ignite the gas, creating a blue flame. The knob controls how much gas is released, so the higher the dial, the higher the flame. Gas stoves with electronic ignitions are much more energy efficient than electric stoves. However, they may not be as safe as we once thought.

The negative health effects of gas stoves

Woman turning on the gas burner on the stove.
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For a long time, the most well-known hazard of the gas stove was the release of carbon monoxide. This occurs when the burner emits gas but there is no flame to burn it. Therefore, it’s important to make sure the knobs are turned off even when it looks like the stove isn’t on. Another major hazard is pollutants that can irritate the human respiratory system, causing or worsening breathing issues. 

Read More: Is That Drawer Under Your Oven Actually Intended for Storage?

Banning gas stoves?

stirring strips of beef in hot skillet inside home kitchen on gas stove
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In the past, many bills have been proposed to ban gas stoves. But in 2023, New York State became the first American state to ban gas stoves and other gas appliances in new buildings in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “A lot of the justifications for these transitions in the United States is driven by climate, and I think that health is sort of a companion benefit,” says Darby Jack, associate professor of environmental health sciences.

The ongoing debate

Closeup shot of blue fire from domestic kitchen stove top. Gas cooker with burning flames of propane gas. Industrial resources and economy concept.
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The debate of gas stoves has been going on for some time now. Dave Schryver, the CEO and president of the American Public Gas Association, a trade organization, points out that the Environmental Protection Agency does not officially list natural gas as a health hazard or as a contributor to poor indoor air quality. 

However, Ashita Kapoor, CR’s associate director of product safety, notes that the EPA currently does not list any indoor air quality standards. Meanwhile, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been vocal about the health effects of nitrogen oxides and indoor air pollution.

Read More: Man Shows How He Uses a Old Washing Machine to Generate Free Electricity

The health risks

gas pipe with open yellow valve and burning gas burner, double exposure of natural gas use
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However, research indicates that gas stoves’s pollutants can present a worse reaction than once believed. Experts point to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in particular, which appears when natural gas burns at high temperatures with nitrogen in the air. “Our knowledge of the health impacts of outdoor NO2 has grown dramatically in the last 10 years, and we have found that it is much more of a health risk than perhaps we previously thought,” says Josiah Kephart, an assistant professor in the department of environmental and occupational health at Drexel University. He adds that “It [indoor NO2] has the same effect on your body.”

Observational studies indicate that gas stoves can elevate the risk of developing asthma in children. It can also worsen breathing problems for those who already have asthma or similar issues. Plus, long-term exposure to NO2 has been correlated with a higher risk of contracting heart disease.

Additionally, studies show that unburned natural gas can leak from burners, releasing methane, a carcinogen called benzene, and other pollutants

Should we get rid of our gas stoves?

A man prepares breakfast in the kitchen. Young handsome caucasian male preparing food for himself for lunch on a gas stove in a large bright kitchen
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Nobody needs to rush out and take urgent action or be worried they’re going to die tomorrow because of their cooking with gas,” says Jack. He adds that ventilation can lower the level of exposure. “If you have a good hood that ventilates to the outdoors, that probably gets you most of the way in terms of reducing the risk for NO2 exposure, but you need to use it.” 

Here are the safest ways to cook with a gas stove:

  • Ventilate the area while cooking by opening windows and doors, running a fan, and using a range hood. 
  • Use fewer burners and use lower heat when possible. 
  • Add supplemental appliances to your kitchen, such as microwaves, portable electric or induction cooktops, etc.
  • People susceptible to respiratory problems should try to avoid being around gas burners while they are on.
  • Avoid inhaling cooking smoke from any kind of stove.

Read More: 12 Tips to Keep Your Air Conditioner Running Efficiently Without Breaking the Bank

Sources

  1. “The Health Risks of Gas Stoves Explained.” Scientific American. Tanya Lewis. January 19, 2023
  2. “Is Your Gas Range a Health Risk?Consumer Reports. Paul Hope. October 4, 2022
  3. “What Science Says About the Health Risks of Gas Stoves.” Columbia. April 7, 2023
  4. “Electric vs. Gas Stove: Which Is Really More Efficient?How Stuff Works. Stephanie Watson. November 17, 2023
  5. “Do gas stoves release toxic chemicals?Missouri Poison Center. December 1, 2022