There's No Gas Stove Ban But Regulations Can Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

Proper ventilation is a must, whether cooking with gas or electricity

A mother and child in a kitchen in front of a gas stove.
Seriously people, stop it with the babies and gas stoves on islands with useless hoods.

Handemandaci / Getty Images

It's #GasBanGate! The Twitterverse is agog over talk of gas stoves being banned or that they cause asthma. A favorite example: "My parents had a gas stove my entire life. Nobody got asthma. NOBODY. This is almost as idiotic as climate change. Climate changes all the time."

Our post on the subject—with the carefully crafted ban-free headline "US Considers Gas Stove Regulations as Research Mounts on Indoor Air Pollution Risks"—cited the line by Richard Trumka, the commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), that started it all: "We need to be talking about regulating gas stoves, whether that’s drastically improving emissions or banning gas stoves entirely."

cooking with gas


This started a massive culture war even though, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), most people who cook with gas are the coastal elites in California and New York. The noise got so loud that Alexander Hoehn-Saric, the chair of CPSC, released a statement: "Research indicates that emissions from gas stoves can be hazardous, and the CPSC is looking for ways to reduce related indoor air quality hazards. But to be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves, and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so."

So if we are not looking to ban gas stoves, let's consider making their emissions less hazardous with better ventilation, an issue whether you are cooking with gas or with electricity.

This is a subject we have covered exhaustively, starting with "The Most Screwed Up, Badly Designed, Inappropriately Used Appliance in Your Home: The Kitchen Exhaust." But the stove ban brouhaha has made it news again. In our post, we quoted Jill Notini, the vice president of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers: “Banning one type of a cooking appliance is not going to address the concerns about overall indoor air quality. We may need some behavior change, we may need [people] to turn on their hoods when cooking.”

This is a point we have tried to make many times: Emissions come from cooking as well as from burning gas. As engineer Robert Bean noted in HPAC magazine, using as many food puns as he could squeeze in:

"Since there are no environmental protection regulations governing indoor residential kitchens, your lungs, skin and digestive systems have become the de facto filter for a soufflé of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehydes, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, fine and ultra fine particles and other pollutants associated with meal preparation. Toss in the exposed interior design features and what is left behind is an accumulation of contaminants in the form of chemical films, soot and odours on surfaces, similar in affect to what one finds in the homes of smokers."

Post #GasBanGate, Matt Power wrote in Green Builder Media about how gas has to go but, in the meantime, let's talk about air quality and kitchen exhaust.

"While I'm in agreement that gas stoves need to be phased out in homes, in favor of electric tops that can be powered with renewable energy sources, the reason to do this now is the Climate Crisis, not asthma. Why? Because Climate Change is an existential threat, whereas indoor air quality can be managed mechanically. If you already own a gas range, and are panicked by the prognosis of doom offered by new research, take a breath, and start using your range hood. You may be able to live safely in your home until the gas company goes bankrupt in a few years."

Power noted that people rarely turn on their range hoods, quoting a study: "Only 8% of the participants used their ventilation system whenever they cooked, while 8% used ventilation 'almost never,' and 15% used ventilation only 'once in a while.'" They would only turn them on when there were serious odors or smoke—48% of users thought the fans were too noisy, 48% thought they weren't necessary, and 20% didn't even think about it.

Power added: "Pointing the finger at natural gas as a silent indoor health threat is looking at just one murky slice of a much larger pie. What's needed immediately is close attention to ventilation and fresh air uptake." He suggested that range hoods should be automatic to "take user resistance right out of the equation." Put it in the building codes.

We now have cheap electronic sensors that can detect particulates and other emissions that could be connected to hoods and control them. Power said that "it's time for range hoods to be integrated with the Internet of Things." Let it talk to my Awair air quality monitor.

Seriously people, combo microwave exhaust fans don't work. Get that baby away from here.

PM Images / Getty Images

Here on Treehugger, the main issue about fossil gas is climate change. We concluded our post by pointing out that "getting rid of gas stoves is key to electrifying everything" and "people may not care how they get their hot water and heat, but they love their gas stoves." The gas companies want to keep us hooked. Environmental journalist Rebecca Leber says much the same thing on Vox:

"The natural gas industry has a strong incentive to ensure there is never any CPSC regulation. Not because cooking itself is a particularly big profit margin for the industry; its real profit centers are gas furnaces and water heaters, which do face regulations to vent outside, contributing less to bad indoor air quality and more to outdoor pollution. Instead, they want to ensure Americans continue their emotional attachment to the stove, which keeps them hooked on gas."

But interior particulate and other pollutants matter, too; that's why I promote range hoods that exhaust to the exterior. As engineer John Straube told Treehugger in "Hyperventilation About Kitchen Ventilation": "There is a fair bit of experiential evidence that recirculating fan hoods do not remove enough of the pollutants...many of the contaminants other than coarse grease particles don't get captured—all kinds of gases and particles are released that cannot or are not effectively be captured by grease filters."

Bean also stated: "I believe it would be difficult to find design professional consensus suggesting comfortability with recirculated hoods without good evidence."

exhaust hood
The hood has to be big and close, and it has to suck big-time.

Robert Bean

Range hoods should be mandatory, and I believe they should be sold together with the stove and, as Power suggested, permanently interconnected with the stove. Do what I did as an architect when dealing with anything bigger than a residential four-burner stove: Hire an engineer. Don't ever put it on an island. Bean said it should be wider than the range, not more than 30 inches from the top and against a wall. The duct runs should be short and straight.

And really, you wouldn't set up a barbecue inside your house, but that's what you are doing when you cook with gas. Try induction; you will love it. I know I keep venting about this, but it's better for the climate inside and outside your home.

View Article Sources
  1. "Statement of Chair Alexander Hoehn Saric Regarding Gas Stoves." 11 Jan. 2023. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

  2. Natter, Ari. "US Safety Agency to Consider Ban on Gas Stoves Amid Health Fears." BNN Bloomberg.

  3. Bean, Robert. "The Essential Ingredients." HPAC Magazine.

  4. Power, Matt. "Bans on Toxic Gas Stoves Ignore the Root Cause of Indoor Pollution." Green Builder Media.

  5. Leber, Rebecca. "The gas stove regulation uproar, explained." Vox.