Study finds big health risks from gas stoves in U.S. homes

Credit: Unsplash+.

A recent study led by researchers at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability reveals significant health risks associated with the use of gas and propane stoves in U.S. homes.

Published in Science Advances, the study highlights how these stoves contribute to indoor air pollution by releasing nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a harmful pollutant.

The study’s senior author, Professor Rob Jackson, expressed surprise at the high levels of NO2 found in areas of the home far from the kitchen, such as bedrooms, where concentrations remained elevated for hours after the stove was turned off.

“I didn’t expect to see pollutant concentrations breach health benchmarks in bedrooms within an hour of gas stove use, and stay there for hours after the stove is turned off,” Jackson stated.

This indicates that the issue affects not only those cooking but potentially everyone in the household.

NO2 exposure is particularly concerning because it has been linked to several adverse health effects, including intensified asthma attacks, stunted lung development in children, and even early deaths.

The study estimates that emissions from gas and propane stoves could be responsible for up to 200,000 existing cases of childhood asthma in the U.S., with a significant portion attributable directly to nitrogen dioxide.

The research team, which includes experts from Central California Asthma Collaborative, PSE Healthy Energy, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, utilized sensors in over 100 homes to measure NO2 levels before, during, and after the use of gas stoves.

These measurements were then integrated into a model developed with the National Institutes for Standards and Technology software, CONTAM, which simulates airflow and contaminant transport in buildings.

Yannai Kashtan, the lead study author and a Ph.D. student in Earth system science, pointed out the crucial role of kitchen behavior and equipment in influencing NO2 exposure.

“We found that just how much gas you burn in your stove is by far the biggest factor affecting how much you’re exposed. And then, after that, do you have an effective range hood—and do you use it?” Kashtan said.

The findings suggest that using a range hood that vents to the outdoors can significantly reduce the amount of NO2 in the air, yet even with such measures, homes, especially smaller ones, often experience dangerously high levels of this pollutant.

The study noted that households in smaller spaces, typically less than 800 square feet, face twice the average annual exposure to NO2.

This exposure is disproportionately higher among American Indian and Alaska Native households, and 20% higher among Black and Hispanic or Latino households, highlighting an environmental inequality issue.

Professor Jackson emphasized the broader implications of these findings for poorer communities, where changing or upgrading appliances is not always feasible.

“People in poorer communities can’t always afford to change their appliances, or perhaps they rent and can’t replace appliances because they don’t own them,” he explained.

This compounds the health risks for individuals in these demographics, who may also face higher outdoor NO2 pollution levels from sources like vehicle exhaust.

The study’s revelations about the indoor air pollution caused by gas stoves and the resulting health risks call for increased awareness and potentially stricter regulations or guidelines to protect public health, especially in vulnerable and densely populated communities.

If you care about health, please read studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease.

For more health information, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

The research findings can be found in Science Advances.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.