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Monday, March 18, 2024

Gas stoves can be hazardous to your health

Gas Stoves Make for Toxic Roommates

CALEB HEERINGA for Common Dreams

There’s nothing worse than a toxic roommate. But those of us with “natural” gas in our homes may be living with them without ever knowing it.

That’s why the Gas Leaks Project launched “Hot & Toxic,” a national campaign to inform consumers of the dangers of so-called “natural” gas. Using reality TV tropes to personify the 21 toxins emitted by gas stoves, one unsuspecting homeowner must face the reality that her dream home with a gas hookup is far from ideal.

At the Gas Leaks Project, our goal is to spread the word about the harms of “natural” gas and fight the fossil fuel industry’s disinformation machine. Hot & Toxic is our biggest effort yet to flip the script and alert people that no matter what the industry says, gas isn’t clean energy.

As part of the campaign, we’re asking the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require gas stove manufacturers and retailers to put appropriate warning labels on gas stoves. People deserve access to accurate health information so they can make an informed decision when buying their next stove.

The Hot & Toxic campaign joins a growing wave of creatives using comedy to tackle climate change and its associated health harms. It’s also an attempt to push back on decades of disinformation from the gas industry, particularly the American Gas Association (AGA), the industry’s primary political advocacy arm.

The AGA has come under increased scrutiny in the last year for its role in keeping Americans hooked on dirty and dangerous methane gas, including a decades-long history of using tobacco industry tactics to minimize the health threat of gas stoves, their efforts to undermine climate leaders at the local level, and their campaign to quietly pay social media influencers to promote gas stoves.

But it’s hard for them to dispute the hard science, and the growing body of research that ties gas stoves to dangerous health problems, especially among children.

The “natural” gas in household stoves and furnaces is mostly methane, a powerful climate pollutant that warms the atmosphere 80 times quicker than carbon dioxide. Methane leaks are an unavoidable part of producing gas and getting it to your home. 

From fracking sites to pipelines to storage facilities, research shows that methane is leaking constantly. When you add up all that methane, so-called “natural” gas may be as bad for the climate as coal.

But methane isn’t the only toxin you may be letting into your home. In 2022, Harvard researchers took air samples from Boston-area homes with gas stoves and found 21 different federally designated toxins. 

These included benzene, a dangerous carcinogen linked to leukemia and lymphoma; nitrogen dioxidewhich harms your lungs and contributes to respiratory disease; and formaldehydea powerful lung and throat irritant.

Scientists with PSE Healthy Energy also found an array of toxins linked to birth defects and cognitive impairment in the kitchens of 159 homes serviced by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Gas (SoCalGas), and San Diego Gas and Electric. They found Benzene in 99% of the homes surveyed.

Shockingly, the health threat doesn’t even require turning your gas stove on. Researchers from Stanford University found that 80% of methane leaks from stoves occur when they’re turned off. They also noted that the stove’s age and model didn’t matter, as the team tested 18 brands of cooktops ranging from 3 to 30 years old.

While the recent studies are providing more detail on the harms of burning gas indoors, the data isn’t new. More than 50 studies dating back to the 1970s have linked the pollution from burning gas to asthma and respiratory disease in children. 

That’s why doctors and scientists at the American Medical AssociationAmerican Lung Association, and American Public Health Association have also spoken up about the health impacts of using gas stoves.

While costs prevent many of us from going all electric all at once, there are immediate and low-cost solutions that all consumers can take to stay safe and begin the transition off toxic gas products. 

For starters, you can open a window and use your vent fan when cooking to help disperse toxic air pollutants and circulate clean air. Or you can invest in a countertop induction cooktop, with entry level options starting at under $100.

When you decide to go all electric, you can use the Inflation Reduction Act to claim tax credits and rebates, including up to $840 for induction stoves, $8,000 for electric heat pumps, and $4,000 for electrical system upgrades in your home. 

Check out this home electrification planner from Rewiring America for more info. And remember: So-called “natural” gas is hot for the planet and toxic for your health, so anything you can do helps!

CALEB HEERINGA is program director of the Gas Leaks Project, a nonprofit educating the public about the harms of “natural” gas.