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Are gas stoves hazardous?

BACKGROUNDER | Evaluating environmental claims about natural gas cooking amid a regulatory clampdown


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Are gas stoves hazardous?
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In early April, 22 state attorneys general sent a ­letter to the U.S. Depart­ment of Energy opposing the Biden administration’s newly proposed efficiency standards for gas stoves. The agency’s proposed standards came weeks after Richard Trumka, a commissioner at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, suggested in early January his agency might ban ­natural-gas stoves. Trumka called them a “hidden hazard” due to health concerns in an interview with Bloomberg News. The safety agency later walked back Trumka’s suggestion of a ban. But is natural gas cooking risky? Here’s an assessment:

What would the new efficiency standards do? The Biden administration says the new standards would reduce climate-warming methane and CO₂ emissions and save enough energy to power 19 million homes for a year. However, it admits half of the gas stoves currently on the market do not meet the new standards. Thus, the standards could push consumers toward adopting electric stoves instead.

Are there health problems associated with gas stove use? The burning of natural gas generates several air pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, which studies have associated with respiratory illness. A meta-analysis published in December attributed 12.7 percent of childhood asthma cases in the United States to gas stove use, but at least one large international study has found no association with asthma. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers says harmful emissions from gas stoves can be mitigated by proper ventilation using a hood or a fan while cooking.

Do gas stoves leak? Gas stoves leak methane, a greenhouse gas, even when they’re turned off. Stanford scientists published a paper in January 2022 estimating that U.S. gas stoves emit 2.6 million metric tons of methane each year (in CO₂ equivalent units), equal to adding 500,000 cars to the roads.

Is that an environmental problem? While climate activists argue stove methane leakage contributes significantly to global warming, some experts think the effect is minimal. Gas stoves contributed less than half a percent of the 688 million total metric tons of methane emissions generated in the United States in 2020. William Happer, professor emeritus of physics at Princeton, estimates that even if the United States could prevent any further increase of atmospheric methane, it would only reduce the expected average global temperature in 2222 by about 0.2 degrees Celsius.

Are electric stoves safer? It’s true that electrically heated stoves generate less air pollution than gas stoves. But what you’re cooking matters, too. Hot oil, regardless of the energy source, emits a compound harmful to respiratory health called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. It also depends on how you define “safe”: According to a 2020 National Fire Protection Association report, the rate of reported fires in households with an electric stove was 2.6 times higher than in homes with gas stoves.

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