Gas stoves are making people sick, contributing pollution that makes indoor air up to two to five times dirtier than outdoor air, according to a new report.
Despite the risks, regulators have failed to set standards for indoor air quality – a problem that is now likely to be exacerbated by large numbers of people spending time inside and cooking at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Fossil-fuel-burning stoves are likely exposing tens of millions of Americans to air pollution levels that would be illegal if they were outside, concludes the review of decades of science by the Rocky Mountain Institute and multiple environmental advocacy groups.
Lead report author Brady Seals said little attention has been paid despite longstanding knowledge of the problem. “Somehow we’ve gotten accustomed to having a combustion device, often unvented, inside of the home,” Seals said.
About a third of US households cook primarily with gas – which emits nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide, in addition to the particle pollution that all types of stoves produce. Older, poorly maintained stoves pollute even more including risks from carbon monoxide.
Even small increases in short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide can increase asthma risks for children. One analysis found that children in homes with gas stoves have a 42% higher chance of having asthma symptoms. Another in Australia attributed 12.3% of all childhood asthma burden to gas stoves.
Nitrogen dioxide also makes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease worse and may be linked to heart problems, diabetes and cancer.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause a headache, nausea, a rapid heartbeat, cardiac arrest and death.
The best solution, according to the report, is to change to electric stoves. But individuals with gas stoves can also open windows, cook on their back burners, use an exhaust hood, run an air purifier with a HEPA filter and install a carbon monoxide detector.
Indoor air pollution hits poor Americans and people of color worse because they are often also exposed to lead, mercury, highways and industrial plants, said Dr Robert Gould, a California pathologist and board member for Physicians for Social Responsibility who peer-reviewed the report.
“We just need to make these investments,” Gould said. “This fits into an overall plan we would have to protect, particularly, our vulnerable populations.”