Are gas stoves safe? US regulator stirs debate on globally popular cooking method

For decades, scientists have said that poorly ventilated kitchens can cause a build up of emissions

Gas stoves have been linked to childhood asthma and other respiratory conditions. Bloomberg
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Debate is raging in the US over the safety of gas stoves after the country's Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggested they might regulate the popular cooking devices, first used in England in 1803, due to potentially harmful emissions in the home.

Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr told Bloomberg last week that “any option was on the table,” including a ban if they were found to be unsafe, before the Commission clarified there were no plans to ban the appliances, on Wednesday.

But Mr Trumka's remarks revived an old debate and created uproar in some quarters because the cooking method is so ubiquitous — there are 40 million of the stoves in the US alone — and secondly, due to pushback from gas-stove dependent industries.

New York restaurateur Stratis Morfogen recently told Fox News that a ban would “destroy his industry”.

Critics of Mr Trumka Jr’s remarks point to decades of data suggesting a possible health impact — yet nobody has yet to suggest anything as drastic as a ban.

Furthermore, the US Environmental Protection Agency says there is no agreed safety limit for the emissions; in other words, more studies need to be done.

The devices have also been criticised in recent months by climate change activists, although in the US, the stoves account for about 2 per cent of gas use.

Are gas stoves dangerous?

Several studies show that the stoves are linked to childhood asthma, and suggest children living in homes with gas stoves may be at higher risk of the disease, due to nitrogen dioxide emissions that occur when using the appliance.

Those emissions contain a particle called PM2.5 that irritates the lungs, putting people at risk of respiratory conditions, while the stoves can also emit harmful carbon monoxide — a risk also common with log-burning heaters and fireplaces.

A study by Stanford University says that extractor fans are vital to reduce these risks, which is also a recommendation from the US EPA.

Will gas stoves be banned?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has clarified that it is not seeking a ban.

"I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so,” said Alexander Hoehn-Saric, Chair of the Commission.

Previously, the US Association of Household Appliance Manufacturers explained its opposition to a ban, and highlighted dangers from other cooking methods.

“All forms of cooking, regardless of heat source, generate air pollutants, especially at high temperatures. A focus on increased use of ventilation is an effective solution to improve indoor air quality while cooking,” the association said.

Updated: January 12, 2023, 11:41 AM
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