Gas stoves can contribute to early deaths and asthma in children

Lung-irritating pollution caused by cooking with gas stoves may contribute to tens of thousands of premature deaths and cases of asthma in children in the United States, according to the United States. a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

For decades, scientists have known that the flames of a gas stove produce nitrogen dioxide, a pungent gas that can ignite a person's lungs when inhaled. But for the first time, a team of researchers from Stanford University and the Oakland-based research institute has done so PSE Healthy Energy published a national estimate of long-term health consequences associated with cooking on natural gas and propane stoves.

Researchers concluded that exposure to nitrogen dioxide emissions alone could contribute to nearly 19,000 premature deaths in the United States each year. It has also resulted in as many as 200,000 current cases of asthma in children, compared to cooking with electric stoves, which do not produce nitrogen dioxide.

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Stanford researcher Yannai Kashtan noted that higher levels of pollution were correlated with the amount of gas burned. But pollution also accumulated at higher levels in smaller homes.

“Living in a smaller home exposes you to more pollution, and that can lead to income and racial differences in exposure,” Kashtan said. “In general, people who live in neighborhoods with more outdoor pollution are also more likely to suffer from indoor pollution. This environmental injustice also extends indoors.”

The American Gas Assn.a trade body representing more than 200 local energy companies across the country dismissed the findings as “misleading and unsupported.”

“Despite the impressive names in this study, the data presented here clearly does not support any link between gas stoves and childhood asthma or adult mortality,” Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the association, said in a statement earlier this month.

The study is the latest to examine the serious health consequences associated with breathing fumes from gas stoves, which release planet-warming carbon emissions and a variety of air pollutants. In recent years, the popular home appliance has become a political hot potato as policymakers and regulators have weighed environmental impacts against consumer choice.

Many major cities in California, including Los Angeles, have begun phasing out gas stoves in new construction homes. Earlier this month, the California Assembly introduced a bill to the Senate require gas stoves to have warning labels which describes the pollution and health effects that can result from cooking with gas.

Gas stoves emit a variety of pollutants, including suffocating carbon monoxide, carcinogenic formaldehyde and benzene. The flame also creates nitrogen dioxide, a precursor to smog and a pollutant that can cause breathing difficulties.

Environmental groups say consumers need to be informed about these pollutants and the potential harm they can cause.

“Gas stoves cause pollution in our homes, increasing the risk of asthma in children and other respiratory problems for our families,” said Jenn Engstrom, state director of the California Public Interest Research Group. “However, this risk has been largely hidden from the public. Consumers deserve the truth when it comes to the dangers of cooking with gas. Warning labels give consumers what they need to make informed decisions when purchasing home appliances.”

Kashtan and other researchers had previously found that cooking with gas stoves posed a similar risk of cancer as inhaling secondhand cigarette smoke. They also found that some gas stoves leaked pollutants even when the burners were off.

The effects are especially devastating for children, whose smaller and still-developing lungs require more breathing than adults, Kashtan said. Older adults, especially those with cardiovascular or respiratory conditions, are also more vulnerable to pollution from gas stoves.

To reduce indoor air pollution, experts recommend using ventilation hoods and opening windows when cooking.

Beginning in 2008, California required new and redeveloped homes to have ventilation that could prevent pollution from building up indoors. But during their research, which measured emissions in more than 100 households across the country, Yannai said they found many kitchens had no extractor fan at all.

Although the health effects of inhaling these pollutants are clear, researchers still question the extent to which these conditions may be reversible. As communities take steps to reduce or transition their exposure, he said we could see results soon.

“It's never too late to stop breathing pollution,” he said.

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