The silent menace: Gas stoves pose a health risk to your patients

By Carol Nathan | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published June 6, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Gas stoves have been linked to childhood asthma and other harmful indoor pollution risks, as they emit pollutants and carcinogens even when not in use. 

  • The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published comments about a plan to strengthen voluntary safety standards for indoor use of gas stoves, prompting New York to become the first state in the US to pass related legislation.

  • Clinicians can educate their patients on the potential negative health effects of indoor use of gas stoves, while staying up to date on the latest news from agencies such as the CPSC.

Is your kitchen stove negatively affecting your health?

Research has linked gas stoves to childhood asthma and health risks associated with indoor pollution.

The harmful effects of gas stoves became a more widespread concern following the proposed ban on gas stoves from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), issued in January 2023.[] 

Since then, New York has become the first state in the country to ban natural gas and other fossil fuels in most new residential buildings, according to a May 2023 article published by CNN.[] “The law bans gas-powered stoves, furnaces and propane heating and effectively encourages the use of climate-friendly appliances such as heat pumps and induction stoves in most new residential buildings,” wrote the CNN authors.

In addition to the harmful effects on human health, the authors note that methane—one of the pollutants emitted by gas stoves, whether or not they are in use—is a major contributor to climate change. 

Risks of gas stoves explained

In May 2023, the American Lung Association (ALA) published a statement confirming the potential health hazards of gas stoves in the home, noting a literature review they conducted of the health, indoor air quality and environmental impacts of indoor fuel use.[]

“We found that gas stove use contributes to several detrimental health risks,” the statement read. “Gas stove exposure can worsen asthma symptoms, wheezing, and result in reduced lung function in children and other vulnerable populations, particularly in the absence of ventilation and for children living with existing asthma or allergies.”

"Research has established that exposure to pollutants emitted from a gas stove and other gas-powered appliances contributes to a variety of diseases including heart disease and stroke, asthma, COPD, lung cancer, type 2 diabetes, premature birth and respiratory infection."

American Lung Association

Recent studies of health risks

A study in Environmental Science & Technology shows emissions from natural gas stoves in California contain hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and toluene, among others.

Benzene alone was detected in 99% of samples, which the authors equaled to the annual benzene emissions from “nearly 60,000 light-duty gasoline vehicles.”[]

The authors also found that natural gas leakage from stoves and ovens while not in use can result in benzene concentrations that exceed mandated safety levels set by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazards, alleging the levels are comparable to “environmental tobacco smoke.” However, they note that more research needs to be done to “improve our understanding of leaked downstream [natural gas] as a source of health risk.”

A different study published in Environmental Science & Technology evaluated the levels of methane released from gas stoves while the appliance was both not in use and in use (ie, during combustion), as well as during transitory periods between use and turned off.[] The study authors estimated that gas stoves “emit 0.8–1.3% of the gas they use as unburned methane and that total US stove emissions are 28.1 [95% confidence interval: 18.5, 41.2] Gg CH4 year–1.”

More shockingly, the study found that “more than three-quarters of the methane emissions were released when the stoves were turned off.”

Gas stoves and childhood asthma rates

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health compared rates of childhood asthma in nine selected states to the number of gas stoves used in each of those states (obtained from the American Housing Survey).[]

The researchers found that 35% of homes in the US use gas stoves, and that 12.7% of current childhood asthma in the US can be attributed to those gas stoves. 

These percentages were calculated using the process of population attributable fraction. The researchers calculated the proportion of childhood asthma that could be theoretically prevented in the below states if gas stoves were eliminated. 

  • Illinois: 21.1% of childhood asthma could be theoretically prevented

  • California: 20.1%

  • New York: 18.8%

  • Massachusetts: 15.4%

  • Pennsylvania: 13.5%

The authors stated that the rate of asthma caused by gas stoves is similar to the childhood asthma risk attributed to secondhand tobacco smoke. They proposed two ways to mitigate the asthma risk from gas stoves are to replace gas stoves with electric or to reduce exposure through range hood ventilation in homes where that is practical. 

Political, business, and consumer reception

The research and public statements about gas stoves have become a flash point, with politicians making statements for and against the CPSC proposal. In addition, the American Public Gas Association is contesting the results of the December 2022 study about childhood asthma risks from gas stoves, saying the authors cannot prove the correlation.[] But as it would be unethical to intentionally expose children to pollutants from gas stoves, all the studies so far have had to be observational. 

The CPSC requests additional information

In March 2023, the CPSC filed a Request For Information (RFI) to seek public input on chronic hazards associated with gas stoves. The following month, the ALA released their statement confirming the need for further research into the matter.

“There is a growing body of scientific evidence indicating that gas stove pollution may expose residents to harmful levels of air pollution in their homes,” the statement said. “We [at the ALA] encourage the agency to continue looking into the science surrounding this issue and to make swift and science-based decisions regarding possible mitigations and regulations.”

What this means for you 

Clinicians can educate their patients on the potential negative health effects of indoor use of gas stoves, as outlined by the American Lung Association. As research is still ongoing, physicians may want to stay up to date on the latest news from agencies such as the CPSC, as other states may soon follow New York in the move toward a more electric, less polluted future.

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