Gas stoves causing unhealthy air indoors, increasing risks to respiratory health

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New Rocky Mountain Institute report summarizes last two decades of evidence, recommends state and federal indoor air guidelines and transition to electric appliances as people spend more time indoors.

“The health case for transitioning to all-electric cooking has been slowly mounting for more than forty years but policymakers must urgently address air pollution now,” said Brady Seals, senior associate at Rocky Mountain Institute and report author.

Gas stoves are likely exposing tens of millions of people to levels of indoor air pollution that would be illegal under outdoor air quality standards. Due to a lack of regulations, this problem is largely going undetected, making people more susceptible to respiratory health risks. That’s the finding of a new report released today from Rocky Mountain Institute, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Mothers Out Front, and the Sierra Club.

The report, Health Effects from Gas Stove Pollution, summarizes two decades of health research, and finds that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside, due in part to nitrogen dioxide emissions and other pollutants coming from gas stoves.

“The health case for transitioning to all-electric cooking has been slowly mounting for more than forty years but policymakers must urgently address air pollution now,” said Brady Seals, senior associate at Rocky Mountain Institute and report author. “We have the tools to do so – Canada recently strengthened indoor and outdoor nitrogen dioxide limits to protect public health.”

The report’s key findings include:

  • Gas stoves release several hazardous pollutants, notably nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.
  • Homes with gas stoves have nitrogen dioxide concentrations 50 – 400% higher than homes with electric stoves. Exposure to nitrogen dioxide, even in the short term and at low levels, can cause respiratory effects.
  • Children are at increased risk from illnesses associated with gas stove pollution: living in a home with a gas stove increases their risk of having asthma by 42%.
  • Lower-income households may be at higher risk of exposure to gas stove pollution.
  • Ventilation is important to managing the immediate risk posed by gas stove pollution, the report finds that it cannot be relied upon as the sole mitigation strategy.

To help spur action by policymakers, the report’s authors give a series of recommendations tailored to regulators, researchers, and the public, including:

  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission should open a docket to develop a strategy for protecting residents who currently have gas stoves.
  • Manufacturers be required to certify that their appliances will not expose residents to harmful levels of NO2 and CO pollution.
  • At the state and local level, air regulators should adopt a health-based indoor air quality standard that protects the most sensitive populations, including children, the elderly and those with existing respiratory ailments.
  • State funds, including for schools and low-income housing, should not be used to purchase or install indoor appliances that expose occupants to harmful levels of gas stove pollution. 

“As health professionals, we are worried by this risk from gas stoves, since even small increases in nitrogen dioxide levels in homes can increase asthma risks for children,” stated Barbara Gottlieb, environment & health director for Physicians for Social Responsibility. “With so many of us seeking shelter in our homes from the Covid-19 crisis, it’s urgent that we understand the threat and learn about protective measures we can take. In the long run, we should stop burning gas, for health’s sake.”

Media inquiries, please contact:
Nick Steel, Manager - Media Relations, T: +1 347-574-0887, E: nsteel@rmi.org

Notes to Editors
“Evidence from peer reviewed studies on air quality and stove emissions provides significant cause for concern about the air we breathe while cooking over a gas stove, and the impact that may have on our health,” said Andee Krasner, MPH, program manager for Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, and one of the report authors. “This is vital information -- because now more than ever, we need our homes to be safe, healthy spaces.”

“Indoor air pollution from burning gas threatens our families’ health,” said Mark Kresowik, deputy regional director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. “The value of clean air in our homes has never been more apparent, and this report cites decades of research pointing to one conclusion: moving off gas to superior induction stoves is a win for health, quality of cooking, and our climate.”

About Rocky Mountain Institute
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit founded in 1982—transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI [i1] has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.

More information on RMI can be found at http://www.rmi.org or follow us on Twitter @RockyMtnInst.

About Mothers Out Front
Founded in 2013, Mothers Out Front is a growing national movement of mothers, grandmothers and other caregivers who are working together to address the systemic causes of the climate crisis, advocate for bold climate action and environmental justice, and protect children and communities from the damaging impacts of fossil fuel extraction and use.

About Physicians for Social Responsibility
Founded in 1961, Physicians for Social Responsibility is a physician-led organization that works to protect human life from the gravest threats to health and survival, guided by the values and expertise of medicine and public health.

About Sierra Club
The Sierra Club, founded in 1892, is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.8 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.

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