Piles of peer reviewed research show how bad cooking with gas is for your health

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Environmental Engineer Shelly L. Miller tweets out a storm that shows how bad gas stoves are for air quality.

Cooking with gas has become a controversial subject. For years, serious cooks wouldn’t consider anything else; now, many are using induction. In my own home, we have gas; it used to be the greener way to cook when electricity was made with coal, which it isn’t where I live anymore. (Thanks, Dalton and Kathleen!)

But the other consideration besides carbon emissions is health. I have discussed the issue of products of combustion from burning gas, why good exhaust hoods are important, and why closed kitchens are healthier than open kitchens. But Shelly L. Miller, environmental engineer and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, recently launched a barrage of tweets linking to research into the effects of gas on indoor air quality; she claims that she “just got annoyed when asked if there was evidence of health effects from gas stoves…” Seriously, anyone who reads this will want to rip out their gas range.

Here are a few of the tweets, with excerpts from the studies and abstracts, which I have edited for easier reading and brevity.

Passive Smoking, Gas Cooking, and Respiratory Health of Children Living in Six Cities

This older (1982) study found that second-hand smoke was a lot worse than cooking with gas, but “They also suggest that exposure to gas stoves may be associated with reduced pulmonary function but do not show increases in respiratory illness among children exposed to gas stoves.”

Gas cookbookLaclede gas/Promo image

Respiratory Symptoms in Children and Indoor Exposure to Nitrogen Dioxide and Gas Stoves

Nitrogen dioxide levels were measured in 80 homes in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia, using passive samplers. Some 148 children between 7 and 14 yr of age were recruited as study participants, 53 of whom had asthma. Health outcomes for the children were studied using a respiratory questionnaire, skin prick tests, and peak flow measurements…. Gas stove exposure was a significant risk factor for respiratory symptoms even after adjusting for nitrogen dioxide levels, suggesting an additional risk apart from the average nitrogen dioxide exposure associated with gas stove use.

British gasBritish Gas Council/Promo image

Association of respiratory symptoms and lung function in young adults with use of domestic gas appliances

Women who reported they mainly used gas for cooking had an increased risk of several asthma-like symptoms during the past 12 months including wheeze and asthma attacks. Women who used a gas stove or had an open gas fire had reduced lung function and increased airways obstruction compared with women who did not. These associations were not observed in men.

Respiratory Disease Rates and Pulmonary Function in Children Associated with NO2 Exposure

As part of a long-range, prospective study of the health effects of air pollution, approximately 8,000 children from 6 yrs to 10 yrs of age from 6 communities had questionnaires completed by their parents and had simple spirometry performed in school. Comparisons were made between children living in homes with gas stoves and those living in homes with electric stoves. Children from households with gas stoves had a greater history of respiratory illness before age 2.

A cross-sectional study of the association between ventilation of gas stoves and chronic respiratory illness in U.S. children

This study compares the use of an exhaust hood and ventilation over a range to cooing without extra ventilation.

In homes that used gas stoves, children whose parents reported using ventilation when operating their stove had higher lung function and lower odds of asthma, wheeze, and bronchitis compared to homes that never used ventilation or did not have ventilation available after adjusting for other risk factors.

This is extraordinary. We have danced around this before; I keep showing this Wolf/ Sub Zero ad which has the worst of all possible worlds in one gorgeous room: a giant gas range, a tiny hanging hood in a big open kitchen. But it was even worse than I thought.

After scanning this research I can only conclude that gas ranges simply do not belong in our homes, particularly in open kitchens, and should never be used without a properly designed and balanced exhaust system, which is almost impossible to find. And for a modern, well-sealed home with controlled mechanical ventilation, (like a Passive House), just forget about it.

And thank you, Shelly L. Miller!





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