Study results show that gas stoves are the leading cause of childhood asthma in the United States
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New research points to an underestimated cause of childhood asthma: gas stoves. The study estimates that indoor pollution caused by gas stoves accounts for about one in eight cases in the United States. The findings are only the latest, highlighting the harmful effects of this ubiquitous way of cooking.
Gas stoves have been around since the 18th century and are in over 40 million homes in the US, or more than a third of all homes thought still rely on them today. However, some scientists have been doing this for several decades warned that these stoves can be a major source of indoor air pollution – warnings that have only recently received wider public attention. These stoves can emit dangerous levels of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and benzene, especially if not properly maintained or used in poorly ventilated homes, even when not in use.
Air pollution is an important risk factor for many health problems, especially asthma. But researchers in the US and Australia appear to be the first to attempt to measure the impact that gas stoves in particular are having on childhood asthma rates in the US. To do this, they looked to the past studies who analyzed how often using a gas stove could contribute to childhood asthma. Then they compared that to census data on how many children live in homes with gas stoves.
Overall, the authors estimated that 12.7% of childhood asthma cases in the US are caused by gas stoves. For context, they add, these numbers are roughly comparable to the risk of asthma from secondhand smoke. And in states with higher use of gas stoves, the toll is likely to be even higher. For example, more than 20% of asthma cases were attributed to gas stoves in Illinois and California, while Florida had the lowest percentage of cases attributed to gas stoves at 3%.
“Our results quantify the public health burden in the US attributed to gas stove use and childhood asthma,” the authors wrote in their article. released last month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
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The results are based on a number of assumptions, so the authors note that they may overestimate or underestimate the dangers posed by gas stoves. But they line up previous studies by some of the same researchers who tried to quantify the risk of asthma from gas stoves in Australia. And no one denies that the pollutants produced by gas stoves can cause or worsen asthma in children. These emissions are not only harmful to human health, but also to the environment. A study from last year estimated that the climate impact of annual methane emissions from gas stoves in the US is roughly equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions from 500,000 cars.
Citing the many potential harms from gas stoves, scientists, activists and even local governments are increasingly urging homes and businesses to ditch electric or induction stoves, which produce much lower emissions. But natural gas companies, lobbyists, and some Republican-led governments have pushed back hard against plans to phase out those ovens. New federal regulations Gas ranges could hit the market later this year, but it could be years or even decades before they’re fully phased out.
With that in mind, the authors say more can be done to make these stoves safer today, such as ensuring adequate ventilation in homes. But these workarounds, they say, would likely only reduce, not eliminate, the risk they pose to children.
More: Gas stoves are the scariest thing in the kitchen