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Experts weigh in on potential environmental and health dangers of gas stoves

The issue has caught the attention of lawmakers in Washington, and a member of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says a ban could be 'on the table.'

CLEVELAND — Some experts are expressing concerns over gas stoves after a commissioner with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission called them a "hidden hazard" and said banning them is not off the table.

"Any option is on the table," Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. said in an article published by Bloomberg on Monday. "Products that can’t be made safe can be banned."

In December, Trumka explained in a Facebook livestream for U.S. PIRG that gas stoves can "emit toxic chemicals" such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, which can impact air quality inside homes.

"Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans have no idea that every time they cook, they could be subjecting themselves to toxic chemicals, including children who are more vulnerable to effects like developing asthma and lifelong respiratory disease," he added in the livestream.

Pollution-Free Cooking for the Holidays

The holidays are a time to spend time with family, cook meals and enjoy each other's company. Want to make sure your holiday meal doesn't come with a side of air pollution? Join us for "Pollution-free cooking for the holidays," to learn more about the health dangers of gas stoves, hear about the benefits of induction stoves and get information about incentives that are now available to help you make the switch. We also have a chef show us how to make one of their favorite holiday recipes on an induction stove, so you can see the benefits of pollution-free cooking.

Posted by U.S. PIRG on Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Trumka is not the only one warning of the potential dangers of the appliances. A study published in December by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, titled "Population Attributable Fraction of Gas Stoves and Childhood Asthma in the United States,: also issued a warning of the health implications.

"In conclusion, 12.7% of current childhood asthma nationwide is attributed to gas stove use, which is similar to the childhood asthma burden attributed to secondhand smoke exposure," the study stated.

Randi Leppla, Director of the Environmental Law Clinic at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, is familiar with the issues surrounding gas stoves.

"This has always been an issue," Leppla admitted. "I just think people are starting to realize some of the actual health issues that are really related to this."

In terms of what can be done moving forward, Leppla sees a few options

"They can do a number of things, which is why the commissioner probably said a ban is not off the table, but it doesn't mean that's what will happen," she said. "If they can't make a product safe, then they will ban it, but if they can make a product safe, they'll try to do that first, typically because that's easier and makes more sense for the public.

"What I think will probably happen is that they'll look at trying to put some limitations on what types of emissions and how much natural gas stoves are permitted to release, and if for some reason they can't make it safe after they try these different parameters, then I think a ban could be the next step."

Leppla also referenced environmental concerns surrounding gas stoves.

"Transitioning away from fossil fuels is really critical in fighting the climate crisis, and so every little thing that each of us does in our homes is going to add up," she told 3News. "So, this could be a big deal eventually if everybody in Northeast Ohio decided, 'Hey, for health reasons and for environmental reasons, we should really switch to an electrified option for our cooking.'"

The conversation surrounding gas stoves continued in Washington, where in December, a number of lawmakers wrote a letter to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to "express [their] concern regarding the risks posed to consumers from indoor air pollution generated by gas stoves, and to encourage the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to take action to address these risks."

According to the letter, more than 40 million homes use a gas stove in the United States. The letter also cited pollutants emitted by gas stoves, such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, as well as environmental concerns.

"A range of studies have shown that, when used without adequate ventilation, cooking with a gas stove can raise indoor concentrations of these pollutants to levels that the Environmental Protection Agency considers to be unsafe even outdoors," lawmakers wrote.

The letter requested the CPSC take steps such as issuing performance standards for gas stoves and requiring labels on gas stoves so consumers are aware of potential exposure risks. One of the law makers who signed the letter was Rep. Shontel Brown, of Cuyahoga County.

"Some of the steps that we'd like to be able to take are education campaigns to inform people of the importance of proper ventilation when it relates to cooking with gas stoves, putting warning labels on ... the gas stoves, so people know the potential dangers associated with the gas stoves," Brown said in an interview. "Again, making sure that we're providing the resources so that we could potentially be able to modify, help those who are, again, underserved and underrepresented get the tools and resources that they need to update their homes.”

Brown also noted that health concerns from gas stoves often impact marginalized communities who may live in older homes that do not have adequate ventilation options. For those who do have gas stoves and are concerned, she suggested ensuring proper ventilation in your kitchen space.

Leppla recommends electric or induction stovetops as alternatives, and also says for those interested in learning more about switching to electric options, there may be rebates for certain income levels, with more information in the Inflation Reduction Act.

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