(NEXSTAR) – The debate over whether or not to ban gas stoves may have started as an environmental issue — and then became a political issue — but it’s also a health issue.
A study, published in December 2022, found that 12.7% of childhood asthma could be attributed to household gas stove usage. Another academic analysis found children living in homes where gas stoves are used for cooking are 42% more likely to have asthma.
When they’re turned on and being used to cook, gas stoves essentially pollute the air in your kitchen. NPR used an air monitor to measure the levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide gas in a kitchen with a gas stove and oven on at the same time, as if they were being used to cook dinner. After 12 minutes, the journalist found the nitrogen dioxide levels were 60% higher than levels recommended by the World Health Organization.
Other dangerous chemicals, like benzene, can also leach into the air when unburned natural gas leaks from appliances into the air, writes Scientific American.
Children are especially vulnerable to these pollutants because their lungs are still developing, Cleveland Clinic pediatric pulmonary specialist Dr. John Carl said. Being inside while the stove is on can contribute to a dangerous environment for their lungs, especially when the windows are closed, like in the winter.
“The average person takes about 20,000 breaths a day,” said Carl. “And we’ve weather-proofed our homes … so indoor environmental exposures are more significant probably because of what we’ve done to weatherize our homes.”
Even short-term exposure indoors can make childhood asthma worse, Carl said.
People concerned they or their children may be feeling the health impacts of gas cooking appliances should look out for signs of asthma developing — or worsening.
“The typical signs any parent would look for are the child having coughing or audible wheezing. Those are things that are particularly noticeable,” Carl said.
If you see any of those signs, you should talk to your doctor or child’s doctor. It probably wouldn’t be possible to trace the cause of a child’s asthma directly back to a kitchen appliance, Carl said. However, parents should be forthcoming with their pediatrician when their child is being evaluated for asthma, according to Carl, and tell their doctor if there’s a gas stove or oven in the house, or if the child is ever exposed to indoor smoking.
“These are multiple sources of potential triggering, and you want to eliminate as much as you possibly can,” said Carl.
Before you rip out your gas stove or move apartments, there are easier things you can do to mitigate the health effects of cooking with gas. If you have a hood over your stove that vents to the outdoors, turn that on every time you’re cooking, Harvard Health recommends. You should also open windows while cooking to improve ventilation.
If you have other means of heating your home, you also shouldn’t use your gas oven with the door cracked open to warm up the room, Carl said.
The renewed debate over gas stoves was kicked off when a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) commissioner said a ban on the appliance might be on the table, given the new research on health impacts.
A ban is unlikely, The Hill has reported. Both the head of the CPSC and the White House have since come out against a gas stove ban.