Is a gas cooker bad for you? Can it cause asthma in your children?
Those questions returned to the fore this week, when federal authorities made it clear that they do not plan to ban natural gas stoves, unlike Los Angeles, where last year the city council banned new gas appliances, including in the kitchen.
Although scientific studies show that natural gas stoves emit high levels of nitrogen oxides and other harmful pollutants, the relationship between these pollutants and human health is still not clear.
But here’s the whole point: If you’re using a gas stove, make sure your kitchen is well ventilated, ideally with an extractor hood pulling the air outside, and if that’s not possible, use a HEPA air filter. And be sure to use it while cooking. It can be noisy, and people who have it often don’t turn it on.
Should you get rid of your gas stove? Emily Oster, an economist and data specialist at Brown University, reviewed the research on the topic and offered this advice:
“If you have a gas stove, do you need to change it tomorrow? Not unless you have a significant respiratory problem,” says Oster, who also works with the National Bureau of Economic Research and writes about pregnancy and parenting data on parentdata.org. You’ll buy a new stove, “and you’re not particularly committed to cooking with fire, I would say buy an induction stove.”
Now for the essentials: Natural gas is mostly methane, a fossil fuel that emits a greenhouse gas when its blue flames burn. Proponents of banning gas stoves often cite reducing carbon emissions as their main goal, but they almost always cite health concerns as well.
There is no doubt that your natural gas stove emits harmful chemicals, such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde. Numerous studies have indicated that pollutants released from gas stoves (before they are vented) can exceed levels that would violate the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air and Conditions standards if the outside air was equally polluted. Studies show that leaks from natural gas pipelines pollute indoor and outdoor air.
But scientific research on the health effects of natural gas stoves is complex and inconclusive. Although some studies have found a significant association between gas stove use and the prevalence of asthma or asthma symptoms in children, no direct causal relationship has been established between gas stove use and poor health.
Given the difficulties involved in conducting this type of research, particularly the bevy of variables that tend to confuse results, it is hard to get a clear answer. Given the limited data available, even correlations and correlations raise questions.
“We don’t have a lot of data on that,” Oster says. For a comprehensive study on asthma, “Ideally, you would compare US homes that are known to use gas stoves with those that are not, and correlate that data with health information, such as whether or not children have asthma. We don’t have those numbers.” .
What scientists do in this case is a large number of confounding factors that may skew the results. What is the size of the cooking area? Is there ventilation? How often is the kitchen used? Who else is in the house or apartment when preparing meals? Is there mold behind the walls? If so, how can it be separated from gas stove emissions to reach healthy results? Is there an apartment or house near heavy traffic? Are there heavy trucks rushing down the street?
A 2020 UCLA-Sierra Club report that compiles existing data came to a conclusion much like Oster’s report: “The association between gas appliance use and health [incluidos hornos y calentadores de agua] present mixed results, due in part to study design limitations, but also due to a lack of data on quantitative exposures,” the paper says.
“There are definitely health issues” that deserve further study, said lead author Yifang Zhu, a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, but the evidence is not as substantial as there is. Obtained from outside air.
Chu, like Oster, stressed the importance of good ventilation.
In fact, for the poor, subsidizing pasture covers can improve indoor air quality more effectively than banning gas stoves, at least in the short term. Those who decide to replace their gas stoves with electromagnetic induction will need hundreds to thousands of dollars to do so. However, buyers may be eligible for federal, municipal and utility company discounts.
The UCLA report states that it “does not weigh the benefits and costs of electricity against improving the use and effectiveness of range hoods in terms of reducing indoor air pollution.”
According to the report, most indoor pollution from gas appliances comes from water heaters and furnaces. California has banned the installation of these appliances as of 2030. There are no statewide bans on gas stoves, although Los Angeles and other cities have begun to follow the example of Berkeley, which became the first city in California to ban new gas stoves in 2019.
The most recent available figures on natural gas appliance use in California date back to 2009, although an update is in the works. That study showed that water heaters account for about 49% of average household natural gas use, heating 37%, and cooking 7%.
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