What you need to know
- The biggest health concern around gas stoves is nitrogen dioxide, a gas that can irritate airways, make asthma worse, and lead to other respiratory problems.
- Running the range hood at its highest speed while cooking is one of best things you can do, but it needs to vent outdoors.
- Opening the windows while cooking and using filtration tools can also help.
Gas stoves have been at the center of a heated debate lately. After news headlines announced that the government was considering a ban on these common cooking devices, the conversations about gas stoves became more about politics than health. It can be difficult to sift through the noise, so we’re here to answer questions around the potential health risks of cooking with gas and ways to make your home a healthier space.
Is the government planning to ban gas stoves?
No. Both the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Biden administration have clarified that they are not seeking a ban on gas stoves and will not be taking away people’s cooking devices. However, emissions from gas stoves do raise some health concerns, and the CPSC is looking at ways to address those potential risks and will be seeking public input on this issue in the spring.
Are gas stoves harmful to our health?
The biggest health concern around gas stoves is nitrogen dioxide, says Jon Levy, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health. Nitrogen dioxide is a gas that can irritate our airways, make asthma worse, and lead to other respiratory problems. “We know that burning fuel indoors—as you do with a gas stove—generates nitrogen dioxide, and we know that nitrogen dioxide is a respiratory irritant,” Levy says.
Decades of research have found that cooking with gas can contribute to respiratory issues. Most recently, a December 2022 study found that nearly 13 percent of childhood asthma cases in the U.S. can be attributed to the use of gas stoves, which, as one author notes, is similar to the share attributable to secondhand smoke. It’s important to note that the study does not show that gas stoves directly lead to asthma, only that there is a link between the devices and an increased risk of the disease.
How concerned should I be?
It depends on the size and setup of your home. “You tend to get higher indoor nitrogen dioxide if you have a smaller home and if you have inadequate ventilation,” Levy says. If you live in a small apartment and have a gas stove without a range hood, you should do what you can to improve ventilation. If you live in a bigger house and have a gas stove with a range hood, you probably don’t need to be concerned, though there is still room to improve air quality in your home.
Levy notes that, when cooking with gas, indoor nitrogen dioxide levels “can get quite high and certainly surpass what people tend to be exposed to in a lot of outdoor settings.” A 2005 study in Boston public housing, of which Levy was a co-author, found that nitrogen dioxide levels in the kitchen were about double the levels measured outside.
Even without gas stoves, cooking can be a major source of air pollution in the home. Cooking generates a ton of particulate matter that can build up at much higher levels indoors than outdoors, says Joey Fox, a professional engineer with more than a decade in the HVAC industry. “The worst [source of household air pollution] is having a smoker in the home; the second worst thing is cooking,” he says.
What can I do to improve air quality in my home?
Running the range hood at its highest speed while cooking is one of best things you can do, Fox says, but it needs to vent outdoors rather than recirculate air back into your home. If you’re a renter, you can ask your super or landlord about how your range hood works. To further reduce your exposure to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, modify your cooking behavior by using the back burners and opting for devices like electric kettles or pressure cookers more often.
Opening the windows while cooking can help boost ventilation and is especially important if you don’t have a range hood that vents outdoors. Filtration tools like HEPA filters or Corsi-Rosenthal boxes can also help, but they primarily extract particulate matter rather than gases like nitrogen dioxide. Ventilation and filtration tools can also help eliminate household air pollution from other sources, such as cleaning products, furniture, and carpeting.
For many people, switching out the gas stove for an electric or induction cooktop isn’t a practical option. But if it is something you have the means and ability to do, know that the absence of nitrogen dioxide isn’t the only benefit of making the switch. By purchasing an electric or induction cooktop, you may be eligible for a rebate of up to $840 thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. You will also be eliminating a source of methane emissions—a major contributor to climate change—from your home.
Levy points out that households that experience the highest exposures to gas stove emissions may also be the least likely to have the resources to improve their situation. “[The fact] that the contribution of gas stoves is larger in smaller homes or poorly ventilated homes means there are some socioeconomic or racial-ethnic disparities in the magnitude of exposure,” Levy says. “That’s something we have to keep our eyes wide open about and try to think about policies that protect those who are truly at highest risk.”