The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) claimed that a report it had published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in December demonstrated that asthma cases in the U.S. could be attributed to gas stove usage. The American Gas Association (AGA) responded immediately that “… linking natural gas cooking with asthma is not substantiated by sound science. Any discussion or perpetuation of the allegations in this report which is funded by non-governmental organizations to advance their agenda to remove consumer energy choice and the option of natural gas, is reckless.”
This report launched the Great Gas-Stove-Ban War of 2023. President Biden’s Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was, for a moment, seriously considering a ban on gas stoves. That is until people noticed. And then they weren’t.
It started with a January 9th Bloomberg report that the CPSC “says a ban on gas stoves is on the table amid rising concern about harmful indoor air pollutants emitted by the appliances,” citing an interview with the agency commissioner. That story was followed by a flurry of other headlines to the same effect.
Once people saw those headlines, it began to look like a potentially bad-PR situation for the Biden administration. The pivot was seamless: “U.S. Isn’t Considering Gas Stove Ban, Actually,” Gizmodo announced. “I want to set the record straight,” the CPSC chair chimed in. “Contrary to recent media reports, I am not looking to ban gas stoves.”
This public debate was an important opportunity set the record straight on gas stove safety. Current U.S. federal agency involvement on the subject does not identify a connection between cooking with natural gas stoves and the risk of asthma development or direct association with asthma attacks.
Additionally, according to the study “Cooking Fuels and Prevalence of Asthma: A Global Analysis of Phase Three of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC),” which analyzed 512,707 primary and secondary school children from 108 centers in 47 countries, there is “no evidence of an association between the use of gas as a cooking fuel and either asthma symptoms or asthma diagnosis.”
The AGA further responded to RMI’s report, “Any allegation that gas stoves exceed standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization is patently false. Regulators, like the Consumer Products Safety Commission, should rely on real data and science, not unsubstantiated advocates' claims.”
Other more objective voices chimed in with thorough assessments of the RMI report, including this piece by Emily Oster at the ParentData blog. “[T]here are clearly many, many factors other than gas stoves that explain asthma,” said Oster. “Some of these may also be environmental. But I’m skeptical that gas stoves play a huge role.”
Blair King at the blog A Chemist in Langley (BC), thoroughly analyzes the methodology of the RMI report finding that its conclusion that 12.7 percent of childhood asthma can be attributed to gas cooking “…is almost certainly not the case.” Based on his analysis, King says, “Put simply, this is not the study I would rely on to make a major policy change that will affect millions of people and will cost billions to implement.”
Within a week, RMI itself backtracked confirming that their report, “…does not assume or estimate a causal relationship” between childhood asthma and the use of natural gas stoves.
Regarding home safety, according to a 2020 National Fire Protection Association report, households with electric stoves reported fires at a rate 2.6 times higher than those with gas stoves. Equally staggering, the death rate of electric-run households was 3.4 times higher than those with gas appliances — and the injury rate was nearly five times greater. Indeed, cooking spurred the highest number of home fires and corresponding injuries from 2014 to 2018, the report stated. This fact, though extreme, makes sense; whenever you're using high heat, there's bound to be a degree of risk, and electric stoves exacerbate pre-existing threats.
Any efforts to ban highly efficient natural gas stoves should raise alarm bells for the millions of Americans who depend on this essential fuel every day. In the words of the AGA, “Attempts to generate consumer fears with baseless allegations to justify the banning of natural gas is a misguided agenda that will not improve the environment or the health of consumers and would saddle vulnerable populations with significant costs.”
The natural gas industry remains focused on bringing objective technical information to the discussion based on real science and research. The industry will also continue to work with regulators and policymakers to help ensure they have sound data to work with as they approach any issues related to natural gas.
Be safe when you are cooking, regardless of stove type:
It’s important to have good kitchen ventilation each time you cook. Exhaust fans remove emissions directly at the stove before they mix into the surrounding air.
Fans also increase overall air exchange in the home to remove pollutants from indoor air.
Use a range hood or exhaust fan that vents to the outside. If your range hood recirculates air back into the kitchen, you should open windows or use an exhaust fan in another room while cooking.
We also recommend the installation of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in every household. Contact your state fire marshal’s office for more information.
Ensure your gas range, oven or cooktop has been design-certified to the ANSI Z21.1 standard, which includes requirements for proper operation and limits on emissions.
Make sure your gas kitchen appliance is installed to local installation codes. (https://www.apga.org/aboutus/facts/naturalgas-cooking-safety)