Gas Stoves Could Be As Bad as Cigarettes, Here’s What to Do If You Cook With One
HomeHome > Blog > Gas Stoves Could Be As Bad as Cigarettes, Here’s What to Do If You Cook With One

Gas Stoves Could Be As Bad as Cigarettes, Here’s What to Do If You Cook With One

Feb 23, 2024

Everyone knows that lighting a cigarette around a baby is a bad idea. But could turning on a gas stove effectively cause the same type of harm?

That’s the takeaway from a new study published this week by the University at Buffalo, which adds to a growing body of research that points to gas stoves for a number of health risks, including developmental delays in young children.

In fact, the combustion from switching on your gas stove emits high concentrations of harmful toxins, such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide and releases tiny airborne particle matter called PM2.5 — a major source of indoor pollution and known lung irritants, says Wynne Armand, M.D., an associate director at MGH Center for the Environment and Health and professor at Harvard Medical School. (You’re probably familiar with PM2.5 particulate matter because of all the press it got over the summer during the Canadian wildfires that, at times, engulfed much of the United States in unhealthy air quality conditions, and exacerbated problems for those with respiratory issues, like asthma.)

At home, your exposure to these chemicals is immediate and turning on your gas stove “creates pollution right away,” Dr. Armand tells The Messenger.

“When you're at home, and there's not a lot of ventilation, you can get higher exposures that way,” adds Dr. Armand. “You also have some leaking that can happen even when the gas is off.”

Breathing in PM2.5 particles can pose additional threats to your health, because these fine particles have the ability to embed themselves in the deep parts of your lungs as well as enter your bloodstream, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Further, PM2.5 can increase the risk of heart disease and asthma and lead to low birth weight. Research also shows that children living in households that use gas stoves for cooking are 42% more likely to develop asthma. NO2 is also linked with childhood asthma.

In fact, to combat the known harms that come from using gas stoves, in May, New York became the first state to ban the use of gas-powered stoves, furnaces and propane heating in most new buildings. In California, Berkeley, in 2019, became the first city to pass laws to ban gas hookups in new buildings. San Francisco followed suit and barred gas appliances in new buildings, too.

Swapping your gas stove with an electric stove might seem like a simple solution. But it’s not an accessible option for everyone.

Moreover, if you rent your home or apartment as more than 35% of Americans do, you might not have a say in whether your kitchen comes installed with a gas stove or an electric appliance.

“The other thing that's difficult is that people have limited financial resources, disposable incomes, who may also often be renters, then don't have the opportunity to replace stoves as easily because they're quite costly,” Carlos Gould, Ph.D., an environmental health scientist at the University of California at San Diego, tells The Messenger.

However, the lack of choice doesn’t mean you’re completely out of options. Both Dr. Gould, a renter himself, and Dr. Armand say there are simple and immediate things people can do to offset the potential exposure to toxins every time they cook dinner.

If your home comes with a range hood or an exhaust fan directly above the stove, switch it on every time you cook, even if it is for a short period of time, Dr. Armand says.

“Make sure that it ventilates outdoors,” Dr. Armand says. “And the vent leading to the outside is actually open.”

Of course, not all range hoods work similarly, and in some cases, the exhaust fan may not push the gas particles outside. If that’s the case, opening up the windows near your kitchen can help deflect some of the toxins outside.

“Leave the windows open, even for a period of time after you've finished cooking,” Dr. Armand says.

Turning on your fan and opening doors while you cook can also improve ventilation and air circulation, disperse and move the harmful toxins outdoors and limit prolonged exposure.

Although air purifiers can’t completely eliminate toxins emitted from combusting gas stoves, they are designed to absorb some of the finer particles and improve indoor air quality, Dr. Armand says.

She also recommends choosing an air purifier with a high clean air delivery rate (CADR) matched to the size of your room for maximum benefit.

If you have only one air purifier, place it in your kitchen while you cook and you can move it wherever you want later on.

However, simply buying and using an air purifier won’t suffice, Dr. Armand points out. “Change the filters, because just having an air purifier is not going to be helpful. The filters can get clogged and dirty.”

“If you're simmering something for a really, really long time, that's not great,” Dr. Gould says. “Even just a short burst will certainly increase NO2 concentrations in the kitchen. And for the cook, in particular, it's a problem in terms of exposure.”

Replacing your entire gas stove is cost-prohibitive, and most probably, not feasible. However, buying portable induction stoves could be a cheaper alternative and affordable with some priced under $100.

Dr. Gould says his rented apartment comes with a gas stove. To reduce his exposure to toxins from the gas stove, he purchased two portable induction stoves to cook with, instead.

“That's what we cook with. You know, I wish we had an induction stove, but we don't and we aren't in a position to replace it as renters,” Dr. Gould shares.

“I would say there are many ways to cook without the gas stove,” Dr. Armand says. “Boiling water can be done with an electric kettle or a microwave.”

Investing in an air fryer, a slow electric cooker or a rice cooker is a good idea, too. These appliances, Dr. Armand points out, don’t combust gas or create air pollution.

“I'm not a proponent for buying a bunch of appliances that just sit there and then you just go into landfill,” she adds.

But she says switching to certain electric appliances you use daily or regularly might give you the best bang for your buck in the long run. Plus, it can improve your indoor quality and your overall health.

If you have breathing issues or other health problems, Dr. Armand says certain government initiatives provide rebates or tax credits to swap to electric options to mitigate exposure.

The Inflation Reduction Act passed by the Biden Administration can cover 100% of the costs for a new appliance, or up to $840, whichever is less. The money can be used for an electric cooktop, range, or wall oven. However, the rebate amount and your eligibility might depend on your household income, where you live and your particular state’s regulations, according to Consumer Reports.

Certain states offer rebate programs, too. For instance, in Massachusetts, residents can qualify for a $500 rebate from Mass Save to swap their gas stoves with an induction stove.