The debate over gas stoves caught fire recently after a federal safety commissioner suggested regulating these popular kitchen appliances.
"We need to be talking about regulating gas stoves, whether that’s drastically improving emissions or banning gas stoves entirely,” said Richard Trumka, the commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Stories circulated about the health risks associated with gas stoves, while many gas-loving homeowners were outraged at the thought of losing their appliances. Responding to the backlash, CPSC chairperson Alexander Hoehn-Saric said there are no actual plans for a ban.
“Research indicates that emissions from gas stoves can be hazardous, and the CPSC is looking for ways to reduce related indoor air quality hazards,” said Hoehn-Saric in a statement. “But to be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.”
The Health Issues Associated with Gas Stoves
Gas stoves produce airborne particulates and poisonous gases such as nitrogen dioxide, which has been linked to asthma in children. In a peer-reviewed study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers calculated that 12.7% of current childhood asthma cases in the U.S. can be attributed to gas stoves.
“There is about 50 years of health studies showing that gas stoves are bad for our health, and the strongest evidence is on children and children’s asthma,” study coauthor Brady Seals, a manager at the clean energy nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), told Bloomberg. “By having a gas connection, we are polluting the insides of our homes.”
Even when not in use, gas stoves can contribute to air pollution by releasing methane into the air. Methane is a greenhouse gas that can have an impact on climate change.
Epidemiologist and health journalist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz suggests that the connection between gas stoves and childhood asthma is not so cut and dried. “The evidence that there's some increased risk is pretty solid,” he Tweeted. “But I do think it's important to note that getting rid of every gas stove in the US may not result in a 13% decrease in asthma.”
Using Gas Stoves Safely
You can lower health risks when using a gas stove, and the best way is to ventilate your kitchen when you’re cooking with gas. Open windows or crack open a door. Turn on the exhaust hood, which is helpful if it is vented to the outdoors. Consider using an air purifier with a HEPA filter or a fan.
The Difference Between Induction and Gas Stoves
In the U.S., electric stoves are much more popular than their gas counterparts. About 68% of households own electric stoves versus 38% that have gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Only about 3% of homes currently have an induction appliance in their kitchen, according to Consumer Reports. Induction cooktops look like smooth electric cooktops but function much differently. Induction uses electromagnets to heat cookware and, because only the pot gets hot, the cooktop stays relatively cool. Induction cooking is faster and temperatures are more precise than with a gas appliance.
Tests by Consumer Reports found that water boils 20 to 40% faster on induction burners versus high-quality gas ranges and electric cooktops.
Induction stoves typically cost more than gas, but they use less energy. You might need to buy new cookware that is compatible with induction. And if you’re switching from gas, you’ll likely also need to hire an electrician to hire a new outlet and electric line. You might also be eligible for a rebate when you buy a new appliance, due to the Inflation Reduction Act which includes tax credits for new appliances, as well as larger purchases, such as electric vehicles.
Gas offers precise temperature control and heats up quickly. If the electricity goes out, gas still works. You don’t need special cookware, but it can be harder to clean and has an open flame, which can be a negative if you have kids.