Reality Check: Gas Stoves Are a Health and Climate Problem
Policymakers and consumers alike are reconsidering the health risks and climate damage associated with gas stoves. Here are six simple truths to guide the conversation.
The debate over gas stoves is raging these days, and there’s a lot of conflicting information and polarized opinions. It can be hard to sort through.
Yet in matters of public health and climate science alike, long-term, evidence-based scientific research is the gold standard to help sort fact from fiction. In the case of gas stoves, the risks to health and the climate alike are increasingly clear. New peer-reviewed research from RMI, the University of Sydney, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which I co-authored with two epidemiologists and a colleague, estimated that nearly 13 percent of childhood asthma cases in the United States can be linked to having a gas stove in the home. This finding is an important addition to the growing body of scientific evidence and medical studies showing children living in a house with a gas stove are at increased risk of having asthma.
For policymakers and consumers alike, understanding both the health and climate effects associated with gas stoves is an essential step to guide everything from public policy about building codes to decisions about what stove to buy in the next kitchen renovation.
Here we will share six simple truths to clarify the conversation about gas stoves, your health, and our planet’s climate.
1. Gas stoves pose risks to human health.
Scientific studies documenting the health risks associated with gas stove use date back decades. Gas stoves emit numerous pollutants, several of which (such as nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide) are known to damage our lungs and exacerbate respiratory issues.
It is also well-established that the health effects of pollution disproportionately hit vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly, as well as low-income households and communities of color. Affirming a 1992 summary study on childhood respiratory illnesses, a 2013 peer-reviewed summary report in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that children living in a home with a gas stove have a 42 percent increased risk of experiencing asthma symptoms.
Emerging research also shows that the gas delivered to stoves contains air toxins and chemicals such as benzene, a known carcinogen with no safe exposure level.
2. Venting is not an adequate solution.
While increased air flow is preferable to cooking without ventilation, it’s only a partial solution to the adverse health effects of gas stove pollution. This is due to several factors, starting with the reality that many kitchens simply lack ventilation. And for those that do:
- many exhaust hoods are recirculating, meaning they shift pollutants around the home, rather than moving them outdoors;
- ventilation hoods on the market today aren’t always strong enough to reduce pollution to healthy levels; and
- surveys show most people don’t use ventilation even if they have it.
3. Gas stoves contribute to climate change.
Burning fossil fuels (mainly gas) in US homes and businesses accounts for roughly one-tenth of the country’s carbon emissions. Cutting this climate pollution is essential for the United States to meet its climate targets and to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. Gas cooking produces over 25 million tons of carbon pollution each year in the United States, according to RMI analysis of Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. Furthermore, recent research from Stanford University found that gas stoves leak methane, a super-potent greenhouse gas, and other pollutants, even when the stoves are off.
4. There are no health-based safety standards for gas stoves.
Due to the known pollution risks, code dictates that many common household gas appliances — such as furnaces and water heaters— must be vented outdoors. Yet there is no similar universal requirement for gas stoves — they are not currently required to meet any voluntary or mandatory safety or performance standards. And while gas stoves routinely produce levels of nitrogen dioxide that would be deemed illegal outdoors, the United States currently does not have any indoor air pollution standards or guidelines.
Gas stoves are not currently required to meet any voluntary or mandatory safety or performance standards.
Gas stoves also pose the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially if they are installed incorrectly and not properly vented or maintained. In January 2023, nearly 30,000 gas stoves were recalled because they could emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide while in use. Other products that could pose a similar risk to consumers, like generators, come with warning labels and increasingly have mandatory safety shut-offs.
5. Electric induction stoves are more efficient.
Where a gas stove uses three units of energy to boil a quart of water, an induction stove needs just one. That energy savings translates into cost savings for American families. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that if every stove sold in 2021 had been induction, the energy savings alone would have exceeded $125 million. The potential for households to save money on their energy bills is essential now that the cheap natural gas prices of the 2010s have given way to sharp increases in customer bills.
6. Electric induction cooktops compete with gas range performance.
In addition to being cleaner, healthier, and highly energy-efficient, today’s induction cooktops perform leaps and bounds better than old-fashioned electric coil stoves. Induction stoves can boil water in seconds, cook food precisely, and their surfaces remain cool to the touch — a bonus for anyone with children. Many renowned chefs have switched from gas to induction because of the speed, control, and precision, as well as the ability to avoid cooking with gas, which can create hot and uncomfortable conditions in the kitchen.
Climate Solutions Are Health Solutions
Climate solutions are health solutions — a key link between the two is air quality. Focusing on the air we breathe in our homes is critical, because that is where we spend most of our time. By addressing gas stove pollution, we can improve indoor air quality and benefit health, while helping the climate.