US Considers Gas Stove Regulations as Research Mounts on Indoor Air Pollution Risks

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is concerned by the findings of a new study: 13% of childhood asthma cases are caused by gas stoves.

do not have a gas stove on an island
Do not hang your baby over a gas stove on an island without a hood.

Tomas Rodriguez

The age of fire is over and it's time we stop burning things. Activist and author Bill McKibben agrees: "We've reached the point in human history where we should stop setting stuff on fire: coal, oil, biomass, or in this case the 'natural gas' that's found on cookstoves across the country." And it's not just because burning fossil fuels is cooking the planet, but also because it's making kids sick.

A new peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that "12.7% of current childhood asthma in the U.S. is attributable to gas stove use, which is similar to the childhood asthma burden attributed to secondhand smoke exposure." The study suggested replacing gas ranges and also points out the importance of properly designed range hoods that people rarely bother to turn on.

"We posit that there are two such interventions to reduce the childhood asthma disease risk attributable to gas stoves: (1) removing the source by replacing gas cooking with cleaner alternatives (e.g., electric), and (2) reducing exposure through source ventilation (e.g., range hoods). Notably, ventilation is associated with the reduction, but not elimination, of childhood asthma risk. Moreover, high-efficiency range hoods are not practical in all settings (e.g., apartment buildings). In homes with range hoods, they may not vent outdoors or be effective at removing combustion pollutants, and residents simply may not use them. Indeed, according to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, among children living in households that use gas stoves, only 21.1% live in households where the stove’s exhaust vent is always used."

McKibben pitched induction cooktops as the alternative and described his happy experiences cooking on them, noting that it is faster than gas and easy to control. This has been our experience after a few months with an induction range. My wife, and former Treehugger food writer Kelly Rossiter, loves it and said she would never go back to an open flame.

McKibben said, "The natural gas industry hates this technology, just like they hate heat pumps; their entire business model is, 'we dig stuff up and set it on fire.'"

The fossil (our preferred term) gas industry may have a big fight on its hands soon. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is looking into the safety of gas stoves. CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka told U.S. PIRG, “The vast majority of Americans have no idea that every time they cook, they could be subjecting themselves and their loved ones to toxic chemicals. We need to be talking about regulating gas stoves, whether that’s drastically improving emissions or banning gas stoves entirely. And I think we ought to keep that possibility of a ban in mind because it’s a powerful tool in our tool belt and it’s a real possibility here.”

Members of Congress led by Sen. Cory Booker recently wrote to the CPSC asking them to take action to address the risks of gas stoves.

"Over a third of American households—more than 40 million homes—use a gas stove for cooking. Gas stoves emit high levels of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). A range of studies have shown that, when used without adequate ventilation, cooking with a gas stove can raise indoor concentrations of these pollutants to levels that the Environmental Protection Agency considers to be unsafe even outdoors. Further, methane leaks from gas stoves inside U.S. homes were recently found to contribute the equivalent climate impacts as about 500,000 gasoline-powered cars and, importantly, more than three-quarters of the leaks occurred while the appliance was not in use."

The letter from Congress didn't call for an outright ban but did request actions to protect Americans from the hazards of gas stoves:

  • Require gas stoves to be sold with range hoods that meet mandatory performance standards, assessing their efficiency of removing pollutants.
  • Where feasible, issue mandatory performance standards for gas stoves that address steady-state-off leakage, including requiring automatic shut-off valves.
  • Where feasible, issue mandatory performance standards for gas stoves that address the health impacts of hazardous emissions.
  • Require labels on gas stoves that educate consumers about their exposure risks.
  • Launch a public education campaign on the health risks of cooking with a gas stove, and steps that consumers can take to minimize their risks.

The first point about the range hood is one we have been banging away on here at Treehugger for years. Gas stoves should be paired with hoods of the proper capacity and with professional installation. In its defense of gas stoves, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers rightly pointed out that cooking produces emissions no matter what kind of stove is used.

One of its vice presidents, Jill Notini, is quoted in BNN Bloomberg: “Ventilation is really where this discussion should be, rather than banning one particular type of technology. 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.”

The Secretary of Energy is on the case as well. The American Gas Association is attacking the studies, while its president Karen Harbert told the Washington Post, “The claims made in this paper are clearly driven by simple advocacy-based modeling and hypotheticals over the deep and sophisticated analysis we should see in sound science."

But this is not the only research, and this is not just an American concern. The European NGO CLASP just released a report, "Exposing the Hidden Health Impacts of Cooking with Gas," stating "the impact of gas cooking on the burden of childhood asthma to be comparable to that of second-hand smoke." CLASP CEO Christine Egan said, "Gas cooking appliances need health warning labels like cigarette packets. EU officials have an obligation to consider these health risks."

"Cooking with gas releases hazardous air pollutants into our homes. Cooking on gas appliances may be exposing over 100 million people in Europe to levels of indoor air pollution that would violate EU outdoor air pollution regulations. Gas cooking appliances emit NO2. There is documented association between NO2 exposure and the development of asthma in children. Gas cooking also emits carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and unburned methane, which can languish indoors after appliance use."
agendas are undermined


The report also noted that cooking with gas undermines strategies to electrify everything.

"There are significant EU-wide efforts to increase efficiency of homes and buildings. Unfortunately, the more energy-efficient and well-insulated a building, the worse the indoor air pollution from gas cooking if ventilation is inadequate. Energy efficiency and electrification efforts should go hand-in-hand, not undermine each other. Switching from gas to electric cooking during a building upgrade will improve the indoor air quality of a household."

CLASP calls for the EU to phase out gas cooking and to improve standards on range hoods. They ask member states and cities to ban gas cooking appliances immediately in new construction.

CLASP nailed the problem for the fossil gas industry in North America and Europe: Getting rid of gas stoves is key to electrifying everything.

People may not care how they get their hot water and heat, but they love their gas stoves. That's why it's so important to keep pointing out that there are good alternatives now to gas appliances and how unhealthy gas stoves are. As McKibben concludes, "If you wouldn’t smoke in your kitchen, then don’t smoke in your kitchen!"

View Article Sources
  1. Gruenwald, Talor, et al. "Population Attributable Fraction of Gas Stoves and Childhood Asthma in the United States." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 20, no. 1, 21 Dec. 2022, pp. 75, doi:10.3390/ijerph20010075

  2. Blair, Hannah, et al. "Exposing the Hidden Health Impacts of Cooking with Gas." CLASP and European Public Health Alliance. January 2023.