linked in pixel
Kitchen gas cooker with burning blueflames fire propane gas

Should You Replace Your Gas Stove For Better Health?

Pinterest Logo

We are constantly exposed to increasing chemicals in the outside environment due to economic development, deforestation and other factors. What about indoor toxins? Generally, we have held this belief that we are safer indoors. One of the common causes of indoor pollutants or irritations is indoor smoking. This has been less of an issue with current regulations, at least in nonresidential United States buildings.

The impact of gas stoves in indoor settings has yet to be known. Big contributors to indoor air pollution are combustion products (particles made by burning fuel) from gas-fired appliances, particularly gas stoves. Cooking creates fine particles invisible to the human eye. Some of them are known irritants and cause or worsen respiratory complaints.

Gas stoves in households

Gas stoves burn natural gas, which creates several invisible side effects. A recent study found that over 12% of childhood asthma cases in the U.S. can be attributed to gas stove use. There is a common belief that gas does cook better. Gas gets hot faster than conventional electric devices, but induction devices, such as electric stoves, use electromagnetic fields to heat at high-speed and are more energy efficient.

Since the early 1990s, studies have shown that nitrogen dioxide, a gassy air pollutant composed of nitrogen and oxygen exposure from gas stoves, increases respiratory illness in children by about 20%. Chronic exposure to indoor nitrogen dioxide is a public health concern. Over half of U.S. households have a source of nitrogen dioxide. Gas stoves are the primary source of this indoor nitrogen dioxide. This gas is produced when natural gas is burned at high temperatures in the presence of nitrogen in the air.

Can gas stoves worsen my health conditions?

Due to U.S. households using gas stoves, many of the population may be regularly exposed to nitrogen dioxide. This risk is particularly increased in patients with known respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In a study of children under 12 years with asthma, living in households with gas stoves increased the likelihood of wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Long-term nitrogen dioxide exposure has also been linked to chronic lung diseases and increased death in general.

The environmental protection agencies regulate outdoor nitrogen dioxide emissions setting standards for their safe exposure limit. Unfortunately, there are no such standards set for indoor exposure.

Another concern shown in some studies is that natural gas leaks from stoves containing benzene. This chemical is a colorless or light-yellow liquid with a sweet odor at room temperature and is highly flammable. A recent study showed that benzene production from gas stoves was 10 to 25 times higher than emissions from electric coils. Benzene produced by gas and propane also transferred throughout the home, sometimes raising bedroom benzene concentrations above the safety levels for hours after the stove was turned off. Benzene exposure causes both cancer and noncancerous health-related effects. Short-term exposure suppresses blood cell production. Long-term benzene exposure increases the risk of leukemias and lymphomas. Additional benzene exposure increases leukemia and lymphoma risk.

Most of the relevant research has been focused on children, but there have also been some studies on adults. Some of these investigations have found a stronger association between gas stove use and respiratory symptoms in women, suggesting that they may be exposed to more nitrogen dioxide, possibly during cooking.

What do I do if I have a gas stove?

So, what should one do if they already have a gas stove? If you have the means, you can replace your gas stove with an electric or induction one. The Inflation Reduction Act facilitated by the Department of Energy can offer home energy credits for improvements. Eligibility varies by state and income level.

But if you cannot afford to buy a new stove or rent and cannot change the appliances, you can still do things to reduce your exposure risk. One of them is the use of vents. Many people do not use vents. If your stove has an overhead vent, you should use it whenever you cook. If you do not have a duct that vents outside, you can open a door or window and run a fan to increase cross ventilation. Portable air purifiers are increasingly used at homes and may also help. However, they do not entirely remove nitrogen dioxide.

It is worth mentioning that other gas appliances, such as gas water heaters, furnaces and even dryers, also produce and leak harmful products, as discussed above. The only way to prevent that is to use or switch to electric appliances.

Learn more about Tashfeen Mahmood, MD

You may also be interested in: