Two shocking studies that likely sparked a debate over banning gas stoves
This story is part Tips for the houseCNET’s collection of handy tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
While it’s unclear exactly what prompted a senior member of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission to suggest that natural gas stoves could be regulated, or even banned, two disturbing studies on the common cooking fuel could be behind it all. A 2022 Harvard study found that natural gas was more toxic than previously thought and that stoves also tended to leak harmful pollutants. Another scientific work published last January established an alarming link between the use of a natural gas stove and asthma in children.
In Bloomberg’s striking interview on Monday, CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. called natural gas stoves, found in up to 40% of American homes, a “hidden danger.” “Every option is on the table,” he continued. “Products that cannot be made safe can be banned.”
After a storm of criticism and rejection, especially from right-wing pundits, Trumpka quickly clarified his statement about a potential ban on gas stoves with a Posting on Twitteralso on Monday, stating, “To be clear, CPSC is not coming for anyone’s gas stoves. The regulations apply to new products.”
Although Trumpka didn’t point to any explicit data or sources in his initial interview, a study by Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health in June last year may have something to do with the breakthrough. rhetoric around the safety of natural gas stoves. The study found that the natural gas used in homes contains far more toxins than previously thought, including nitrogen dioxide and methane, and that gas stoves often leak, even when turned on. are turned off, which puts those in and around the kitchen at a higher temperature. risk.
A second, more recent study from earlier this month concluded that up to 12.7% of asthma cases in children can be attributed to gas stove use. The work, which was published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that rates of asthma caused by gas stoves are even higher in some states, including Illinois (21.1% ), California (20.1%) and New York (18.8%). %).
The 16-month Harvard study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in June 2022, took samples from 69 stoves in homes served by three different natural gas companies in the Boston area. Testing of pre-combustion (unburned) methane gas revealed over 300 chemicals, including 21 airborne toxins. These toxins notably included low levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, which was found in 95% of the natural gas tested.
The study also found that around one in 20 stoves (5%) leaked gas when not in use, which was significant enough to recommend a follow-up with an expert. Leaks were usually so small they couldn’t be detected by the human nose (natural gas is odorized for safety), but still could pose a potential health risk, according to Drew Michanowicz, senior scientist at PSE Healthy Energy who worked on the study.
It is important to note that this study aimed only to identify potential human risk from the use of natural gas stoves and did not measure exposure levels of said airborne toxins or draw any conclusions about the health effects these low levels of exposure might have over time.
Is your natural gas stove dangerous?
It’s still too early to make any grand or sweeping claims about the health risks of using natural gas stoves, but data from both studies indicate that natural gas poses potential health risks that were previously unknown. More research is needed on the exposure levels of the average person living with and using a gas stove. That said, the natural gas used in the stoves tested was found to contain more harmful gases than previously thought, including benzene, which could pose a health risk if exposure to unburned gas is important enough. This, coupled with gas stoves that often leak when not in use, could have adverse health effects over time.
How to protect yourself from natural gas leaks
While more research is needed to determine the true dangers of natural gas stoves, there are steps you can take in the meantime to mitigate the risks.
Make sure your kitchen is well ventilated with windows. If it’s not a well-ventilated space or you can’t keep the windows open, consider adding a single fan to promote air circulation. Air purifiers with carbon filters eliminate harmful benzene and other airborne toxins. A basic model costs between $100 and $150. (Check out our picks for the best air purifiers.)
How to tell if your stove is leaking gas when not in use
While the tiny leaks found in the study aren’t likely to pose an immediate threat to your health, larger leaks may. If you suspect a gas leak in your home, contact your gas supplier immediately. They will send a technician to investigate further and take care of any potential hazards, often at no cost to you.
Use a gas detector
A simple gas leak detector will help identify the presence of gas around your burner and give an approximate idea of how much is leaking. Testing for a gas leak will give you some information to get started. If there is indeed a leak, contact your gas company for assistance.
Natural gas leaks usually release carbon monoxide in the air, which can lead to poisoning and even death if it reaches high enough levels. Install a carbon monoxide detector or a smart smoke and CO detector like the NestProtect to make sure your home is not in danger.
use your nose
Natural gas is treated with an odorant to help detect leaks, so if you smell that unique odor when the burners are off, you could have a problem. But if the leak is small enough, you won’t be able to smell it with just your nose, and it can still do harm over time.
More information about the oven
This story was originally published in July 2022 and has been updated with new information.
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