Gas stoves are a staple in many commercial and home kitchens owing to their affordability, instant heat control and versatility.
The ability to fine-tune burner and oven temperatures makes them an especially popular choice among chefs and bakers, and renters whose homes are furnished with gas stoves have little choice but to use them.
However, a federal agency in the United States is questioning whether the hazards of these appliances might outweigh the benefits.
The United States Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) appeared at one point to consider a ban on gas stoves due to health and respiratory concerns.
Here is what’s known so far about the risks associated with gas stoves and the possibility of a ban.
WAS A BAN BEING CONSIDERED IN THE US?
The CPSC has been discussing action on gas stoves for months, citing evidence that pollutants from appliances have been linked to asthma and worsening respiratory conditions.
Richard Trumka, one of the agency’s commissioners, recommended in October that the CPSC seek public comment on the hazards associated with gas stoves. That recommendation was passed by the commission.
In an interview with Bloomberg this month, Trumka called the stove a hidden hazard, saying “any option” was on the table.
“Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” he said.
Trumka said options besides a ban could include “setting standards on emissions from the appliances.”
On Tuesday, CPSC chair Alex Hoehn-Saric clarified he is not looking to tire gas stoves and that the commission “has no proceeding” to do so.
“CPSC is researching gas emissions in stoves and exploring new ways to address health risks,” he wrote in a statement. “CPSC is also actively engaged in strengthening voluntary safety standards for gas stoves.”
WHAT DOES SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH SAY?
A growing body of research suggests gas stoves emit pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, methane, hexane, toluene, benzene, ethylbenzene and xylene, all of which can be harmful to human health.
In one study published in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology in October, researchers gathered gas samples from 159 homes throughout California and tested them to see what type of gasses the stoves emitted when they weren’t in use.
All the samples they tested contained benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. The authors also estimate that more than four tonnes of benzene per year leaks into the atmosphere from outdoor pipes that deliver the gas to buildings around California. That amount is equal to the benzene emissions from nearly 60,000 vehicles.
An earlier study published in the same journal in January 2022 tested the air of 53 home kitchens in California and found three-quarters of the total methane released by gas stoves was released while the stoves were off.
Even when they are not running, the study found, US gas stoves emit 2.4 million metric tonnes of methane into the air each year.
Numerous studies have shown these gases negatively affect air quality inside and outside of homes. Some – like methane – are known greenhouse gases, while others have been linked to asthma and other respiratory problems.
One 2013 study, an analysis of observational research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that children living in households that use gas stoves for cooking were 42 per cent more likely to have asthma.
Another study published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal in January 2022 found that almost two million cases worldwide of new childhood asthma were estimated to have been caused by nitrogen dioxide pollution in 2019.
A more recent, peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health and Research this month placed gas-burning stoves on par with second-hand smoke in terms of the risk of childhood asthma. The study found gas-burning stoves were responsible for approximately 12.7 per cent of childhood asthma cases in America.
“We posit that there are two interventions to reduce the childhood asthma disease risk attributable to gas stoves,” the study authors write, “removing the source by replacing gas cooking with cleaner alternatives, and reducing exposure through source ventilation.”
US POLITICIANS ARE WEIGHING IN
Although the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an independent federal regulatory agency, commissioners are appointed by the president of the United States.
This might explain why the question of whether or not to ban gas stoves could be a political issue for some.
Texas Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson took to Twitter earlier on Monday to challenge the White House to “come and take” his gas stove.
“I’ll NEVER give up my gas stove,” he wrote on the platform. “If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands.”
New York Democratic Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez revised with a link to a Vox.com article citing a study about the effects of prolonged exposure to pollutants from gas stoves.
“Did you know that ongoing exposure to NO2 from gas stoves is linked to reduced cognitive performance?” she wrote.
WHAT DO CANADIAN REGULATORS SAY?
It doesn’t appear that Canadian regulators will consider a ban or new restrictions on gas stoves any time soon.
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Health Canada said:
“Health Canada has in place robust legislative frameworks to protect the public from unsafe consumer products. The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act prohibits the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of any consumer product that is a “danger to human health or safety.” Manufacturers have the responsibility to ensure that their products are safe and comply with all mandatory requirements of the Act.”
“Health Canada has conducted studies to assess the level of pollutant derived from the use of gas cooktop stoves. This information was used to develop Health Canada’s Residential Indoor Air Quality Guidelines, which provide the public with information on safe levels of indoor air pollutants in residential settings.”
“In addition, further research has shown that the use of kitchen exhaust fans and ventilation is effective in reducing indoor air pollutants generated through cooking with gas stoves. To this end, Health Canada has updated in 2021 a Factsheet on cooking and indoor air quality which presents strategies to help reduce pollutant levels resulting from cooking and reduce the risk of exposure. More information on ventilation tools to improve indoor air quality can be found in Health Canada’s Ventilation and Indoor Environment document.”