Gas stove emissions can increase childhood asthma, experts say, leading...

Gas stove emissions can increase childhood asthma, experts say, leading Gov. Kathy Hochul to propose a future ban in new, smaller buildings. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The era of cooking with gas-burning flames may be waning, as research shows emissions from these appliances increase the risks of childhood asthma and overheating the planet.

One month after researchers said 12.7% of “current childhood asthma in the United States is attributable to gas stove use,” Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed allowing only electric appliances and heating systems for new, smaller buildings in 2025, followed by larger buildings in 2028.

Though gas-burning appliances and heaters already are being phased out in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and throughout California, the Biden administration and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission earlier this week vowed to take no similar steps nationally.

They acted after a U.S. Consumer Product Safety commissioner sparked criticism for telling Bloomberg News that gas stoves were “a hidden hazard,” adding, “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

Dr. Norman Edelman, a professor at Stony Brook University, said: “When you burn natural gas, you give off pollutants. We’ve known this for a long time. We advise our patients with asthma to be aware of this.”

Gas-powered ranges and ovens, along with their gas-powered car counterparts, release lung-irritating or potential carcinogens, including particulates, nitrogen dioxide, methane and benzene, experts say.

Gauging the risk children face hinges on the prevalence of cooking by gas, and New York’s children face a higher risk than the national average: 18.8% of childhood asthma cases might be prevented if gas-powered ranges and stoves were not used, according to the study, “Population Attributable Fraction of Gas Stoves and Childhood Asthma in the United States.”

The new asthma study was published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The methane that gas stoves inside U.S. homes leak over a 20-year-period has about the same effect on heating the planet as 500,000 gasoline-driven cars, a Stanford University study found last year. 

Pollution is much less of a problem with either electric ranges and stoves or induction cooktops, which are powered by electromagnetic currents and require special cookware. Induction cooktops offer extraordinary speed. Water boils in about half the time as a gas range and are viewed as safer as only the area under a pot or pan heat up.

“If there are people in your household who have respiratory problems, yes, I would rip it out and put in an electric stove because the nitrogen dioxide is irritating to the lungs,” Edelman said.

“If there are very young children in the household and the parents have allergies, these children are at increased risk of developing asthma. You might want to think about that.”

Asthma also is tied to lots of different indoor pollutants, including common household products, noted Dr. Jeremy Weinberger, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

Opening windows and making sure range hoods vent the air outside and do not recirculate it through possibly inadequate filters are among the steps the experts recommend.

“While additional studies are needed, those with a history of severe asthma might consider removing gas stoves from their home, and all should ensure proper ventilation,” Weinberger said by email.

The combination of indoor and outdoor pollutants can worsen asthma.

“These effects are additive, such that if a person lives in an area that has high outdoor air pollution along with indoor air pollutants, they are at higher risk,” he said.

Often, impoverished neighborhoods border heavily traveled truck routes or industrial firms, possibly exposing their residents to even more pollutants.

“While it is difficult to directly compare exposures, it is important to note that those who are most socioeconomically disadvantaged are more likely to have higher exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollutants,” Weinberger said.

Modern chefs still swear by their gas ranges and ovens, though switching to an induction or an electric stove qualifies for an $840 rebate under the Inflation Reduction Act that Congress enacted last summer.

“In my experience there is no comparison to the benefits that you can achieve with gas units,” said Vinny Winn, a chef at Suffolk County Community College, extolling “the almost instant on and off of turning the knob to ignite the flame to the precise heat distribution.”

“Gas is superior, just because of the speed of cooking and control,” agreed Victor McNulty, the chef and owner of The Cook’s Studio in Huntington and Hicksville.

His schools use induction ranges, as they are safer. Yet he wondered how onerous it might be for restaurants to adapt, asking: “How does that affect the small business person?”

Still, he and Polly Talbott, of Lynbrook, who founded the A la Carte cooking school and teaches privately, agreed the induction method has merit. “It’s wonderful. It’s faster than gas,” Talbott said. “Once you get yourself over the learning curve, they’re great.”

She added: “I would tell people to embrace it, [but] change is hard.”

The era of cooking with gas-burning flames may be waning, as research shows emissions from these appliances increase the risks of childhood asthma and overheating the planet.

One month after researchers said 12.7% of “current childhood asthma in the United States is attributable to gas stove use,” Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed allowing only electric appliances and heating systems for new, smaller buildings in 2025, followed by larger buildings in 2028.

Though gas-burning appliances and heaters already are being phased out in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and throughout California, the Biden administration and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission earlier this week vowed to take no similar steps nationally.

They acted after a U.S. Consumer Product Safety commissioner sparked criticism for telling Bloomberg News that gas stoves were “a hidden hazard,” adding, “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Gas ranges and ovens, unlike induction cooktops or electric equivalents, release lung irritants and potential carcinogens, including: particulates, nitrogen dioxide, benzene, and methane.
  • About 12.7% of the asthma U.S. children get can be attributed to gas stoves. In New York state, the percentage is higher: 18.8%.
  • Gov. Kathy Hochul is proposing that New York state phase out gas-powered appliances and heating systems, for newer, smaller buildings in 2025, and their larger peers in 2028.

Gas stoves emit pollutants

Dr. Norman Edelman, a professor at Stony Brook University, said: “When you burn natural gas, you give off pollutants. We’ve known this for a long time. We advise our patients with asthma to be aware of this.”

Gas-powered ranges and ovens, along with their gas-powered car counterparts, release lung-irritating or potential carcinogens, including particulates, nitrogen dioxide, methane and benzene, experts say.

Gauging the risk children face hinges on the prevalence of cooking by gas, and New York’s children face a higher risk than the national average: 18.8% of childhood asthma cases might be prevented if gas-powered ranges and stoves were not used, according to the study, “Population Attributable Fraction of Gas Stoves and Childhood Asthma in the United States.”

The new asthma study was published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The methane that gas stoves inside U.S. homes leak over a 20-year-period has about the same effect on heating the planet as 500,000 gasoline-driven cars, a Stanford University study found last year. 

Pollution is much less of a problem with either electric ranges and stoves or induction cooktops, which are powered by electromagnetic currents and require special cookware. Induction cooktops offer extraordinary speed. Water boils in about half the time as a gas range and are viewed as safer as only the area under a pot or pan heat up.

“If there are people in your household who have respiratory problems, yes, I would rip it out and put in an electric stove because the nitrogen dioxide is irritating to the lungs,” Edelman said.

“If there are very young children in the household and the parents have allergies, these children are at increased risk of developing asthma. You might want to think about that.”

Asthma tied to indoor and outdoor factors

Asthma also is tied to lots of different indoor pollutants, including common household products, noted Dr. Jeremy Weinberger, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

Opening windows and making sure range hoods vent the air outside and do not recirculate it through possibly inadequate filters are among the steps the experts recommend.

“While additional studies are needed, those with a history of severe asthma might consider removing gas stoves from their home, and all should ensure proper ventilation,” Weinberger said by email.

The combination of indoor and outdoor pollutants can worsen asthma.

“These effects are additive, such that if a person lives in an area that has high outdoor air pollution along with indoor air pollutants, they are at higher risk,” he said.

Often, impoverished neighborhoods border heavily traveled truck routes or industrial firms, possibly exposing their residents to even more pollutants.

“While it is difficult to directly compare exposures, it is important to note that those who are most socioeconomically disadvantaged are more likely to have higher exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollutants,” Weinberger said.

Gas more popular with chefs

Modern chefs still swear by their gas ranges and ovens, though switching to an induction or an electric stove qualifies for an $840 rebate under the Inflation Reduction Act that Congress enacted last summer.

“In my experience there is no comparison to the benefits that you can achieve with gas units,” said Vinny Winn, a chef at Suffolk County Community College, extolling “the almost instant on and off of turning the knob to ignite the flame to the precise heat distribution.”

“Gas is superior, just because of the speed of cooking and control,” agreed Victor McNulty, the chef and owner of The Cook’s Studio in Huntington and Hicksville.

His schools use induction ranges, as they are safer. Yet he wondered how onerous it might be for restaurants to adapt, asking: “How does that affect the small business person?”

Still, he and Polly Talbott, of Lynbrook, who founded the A la Carte cooking school and teaches privately, agreed the induction method has merit. “It’s wonderful. It’s faster than gas,” Talbott said. “Once you get yourself over the learning curve, they’re great.”

She added: “I would tell people to embrace it, [but] change is hard.”

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