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- About 650,000 kids in the US likely have asthma because of gas stoves, a study found.
- Stoves release carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide that increase the risk of respiratory damage.
- Climate advocates are pointing to the study to help make the case for phasing out fossil fuels.
Most parents know that secondhand smoke can lead to asthma in kids. It’s probably a surprise that cooking on a gas stove carries similar risks.
That’s according to a study in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, which attributed 12.7% of childhood asthma cases in the US to air pollutants from gas stoves.
Burning gas releases pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde, which increase the risk of respiratory damage.
“This is preventable,” Brady Seals, a manager at the think tank RMI’s Carbon-Free Buildings program and coauthor of the study, told Insider. “We hope this study can raise awareness and give policymakers the data they need to do something about this issue.”
The results are based on an analysis of previous research that estimated children living in homes with gas stoves were 34% more at risk of developing asthma. That risk factor, combined with data from 2019 showing that more than one-third of US households primarily cooked with gas, indicated that about 650,000 kids likely had asthma because of gas stoves, the study found.
Seals, whose employer advocates for electrifying buildings, said there were decades’ worth of studies on the correlation between gas stoves and childhood asthma but it’s been siloed or shelved away. Now, some climate advocates are putting the pieces together to bolster the case for phasing out fossil fuels in buildings, which account for about 13% of US greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“This adage of, ‘If it’s bad for the climate, it’s probably bad for your health,’ led us to start researching this topic about three years ago,” Seals said.
RMI and Rewiring America, another electrification group that helped author the study, advocate for building codes that ban gas hookups in new construction. Dozens of cities, primarily in California, have had that policy since 2019.
The momentum was met with an opposition campaign by the gas industry and their allies in state legislatures. At least 20 mostly red states have enacted laws that prohibit local governments from restricting fossil fuels in buildings.
The American Gas Association, a trade group representing the natural gas industry, in a statement criticized the methodology underlying the study on childhood asthma, in part because researchers used estimated health risks and didn’t conduct their own measurements on appliance usage, emissions, or exposures.
The gas industry also often points out that proper ventilation significantly reduces the concentration of pollutants from gas stoves.
While that’s true, Seals said many states and cities didn’t require gas stoves to be vented to the outdoors — a distinction from appliances like furnaces and water heaters. Exhaust hoods and fans aren’t guaranteed to clean the air, and people might not always use them.
Seals added that federal agencies should step up oversight. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t regulate indoor air quality, but it could issue nonbinding guidance that helps influence state and local officials who update building codes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission could also regulate pollutants from gas stoves or require warning labels, Seals said.
The commission’s head, Richard Trumka Jr., in December indicated the agency was headed in that direction and said an outright ban on new gas stoves was “a real possibility,” The Hill reported. The same month, Democrats in Congress asked the agency to take steps to protect people from the hazards.