It may be time to pass on gas.
The more than 40 million households in the US who use a gas stove might want to consider an alternative.
New findings have shown that gas stoves — even when turned off — may cause asthma in children and put adults at risk of cancer.
Dr. Jonathan Levy, an environmental health professor at Boston University, claimed the stoves may pollute the air with nitrogen dioxide, which can cause lung damage.
The pollutant, a “byproduct of fuel combustion,” is also the same that is produced on major highways, but since the kitchen is an enclosed space, it puts inhabitants at more risk. The size of the home and the quality of ventilation also play a part, Levy said.
Even when switched off, the stoves can emit chemicals like methane, which can cause rapid heartbeat and trouble breathing, and benzene, a chemical linked to different cancers. While researchers are unsure if the amount of benzene from a stove can be cancer-causing, continuous exposure worries experts.
“Nitrogen dioxide exposures in homes have been associated with more severe asthma and increased use of rescue inhalers in children,” Levy explained, per the Conversation. “This gas can also affect asthmatic adults, and it contributes to both the development and exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
In 2020, a report from the Rocky Mountain Institute found that the toxins emitted from stoves posed a health risk to the public, with the co-author Brady Seals calling them “invisible odorless pollutants.”
Yale University researchers discovered in 2013 that every five parts per billion increase of NO2 is associated with an increase in asthma and similar symptoms in households, while another 2013 study revealed that people with gas stoves were 42% more likely to develop asthma.
While traffic, specifically combustion engines, is the biggest perpetrator of NO2 pollution outdoors, Levy noted that levels inside the home can exceed safety standards — even if you use a range hood and open a window.
But the risk isn’t isolated to NO2. Methane, not only harmful to humans but also to the environment, and benzene, a carcinogen that is linked to leukemia, are also present. While risks are reserved for people who are exposed in large quantities, Levy claims that 5% of households have methane leaks and aren’t even aware.
Methane exposure can cause breathing issues including shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, fatigue and other troubling health problems.
But homeowners might not even know their gas stove is harming them, inhaling the dangerous chemicals without being aware.
“In my view, even if you’re not driven to reduce your carbon footprint — or you’re just seeking ways to cook pasta faster — the opportunity to have cleaner air inside your home may be a strong motivator to make the switch,” said Levy, who is an advocate for ditching gas stoves and converting to electric.
There are other ways that gas stoves may harm health, according to scientists who have also warned that they could contribute to global warming, due to the methane they produce.