Federal agency considers ban on gas stoves following report linking them to childhood asthma


A study released last week found gas stoves were the cause of 12.7% of childhood asthma cases in the United States.

David Knowles

·Senior Editor

Mon, 9 January 2023 at 9:30 pm GMT

ORANGE, CA - JUNE 11:  Blue flames rise from the burner of a natural gas stove June 11, 2003 in Orange, California. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, testifying as an energy expert, told a U.S. House committee June 10 that high natural gas prices resulting from increased demand and shrinking domestic production are here to stay and may potentially drive U.S. industry overseas. A cold winter is being blamed for depleting wells and raising the price of natural gas to more than twice what it cost two years ago.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Blue flames rise from the burner of a natural gas stove June 11, 2003 in Orange, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering a federal ban on gas stoves in response to a growing body of scientific research has linked them to a variety of health problems.

“This is a hidden hazard,” Richard Trumka Jr., an agency commissioner, told Bloomberg in an interview. “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

The agency will begin public comment sessions this winter as it begins weighing restrictions on emissions from gas stoves that have found to be harmful to human health.

Last week, a study in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that gas stoves, which are used in roughly 40% of U.S. homes, were responsible for 12.7% of childhood asthma cases in the country. In all, the study found, gas stoves are responsible for giving asthma to 650,000 children in the U.S.

“When the gas stove is turned on, and when it’s burning at that hot temperature, it releases a number of air pollutants,” Brady Seals, a co-author of the study and the carbon-free buildings manager at the energy policy think tank RMI, told Yahoo News. “So these are things like particulate matter, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, along with others. So, for example, nitrogen dioxide is a known respiratory irritant. And the EPA, in 2016, said that short-term exposure to NO2 causes respiratory effects like asthma attacks.”

The dangers of using gas stoves have long been known. In 2013, a meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that children living in homes with gas stoves were 42% more likely to experience symptoms of asthma than those that lived with electric ranges and ovens, while 24% were more likely to be diagnosed with lifetime asthma.

“Cooking with gas stoves creates nitrogen dioxide and releases additional tiny airborne particles known as PM2.5, both of which are lung irritants. Nitrogen dioxide has been linked with childhood asthma,” Dr. Wynne Armand, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, wrote in September at Harvard Health Publishing. “During 2019 alone, almost two million cases worldwide of new childhood asthma were estimated to be due to nitrogen dioxide pollution.”

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks to reporters in the Senate subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks to reporters in the Senate subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

In December, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., sent a letter co-signed by 18 Democratic lawmakers to Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric, asking the agency to take steps to limit the risks posed by gas stoves, which they said were more significant for lower-income Americans.

“These emissions can create a cumulative burden to households that are already more likely to face higher exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollution. Statistics show that Black, Latino, and low-income households are more likely to experience disproportionate air pollution, either from being more likely to be located near a waste incinerator or coal ash site, or living in smaller homes with poor ventilation, malfunctioning appliances, mold, dust mites, secondhand smoke, lead dust, pests, and other maintenance deficiencies,” the letter stated.

Using a stove’s ventilation hood greatly reduces the health risks associated with gas ranges and ovens, but many homes simply don’t have them. Even using a hood, however, doesn’t obviate the health risks. A 2022 study by researchers at Stanford University found that gas stoves regularly leak, and that approximately 40 million units in the U.S. represent problems for human health as well as the emissions that cause climate change.

“Using a 20-year timeframe for methane, annual methane emissions from all gas stoves in U.S. homes have a climate impact comparable to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 500,000 cars,” the study stated.

Given the number of gas stoves currently in American homes, new emissions restrictions could set off a political standoff. On Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, offered a preview of that likely battle.

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