LONDON — Cooking with gas may produce delicious dishes, but new studies are claiming it’s also worse for your health than living in a polluted city. While many professional and amateur cooks prefer gas stoves to electric alternatives, researchers are now saying that they produce nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter – dangerous toxins found in traffic fumes. If true, these substances can irritate the lungs and can get into the bloodstream — increasing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s.
Children and older people are most vulnerable to this type of air pollution. One study says gas stoves cause spikes in indoor air pollutants many times higher than what’s floating around on a busy city street.
“Many of the children were actually exposed to more pollution at home in the evenings, when one of the parents was cooking, than what they actually were seeing on the way to school,” says Professor Frank Kelly of Imperial College London, according to a statement from SWNS.
Another study suggests that one in eight cases of childhood asthma in the U.S. are the result of exposure to gas cookers. Prof. Kelly, who did not take part in that particular report, says gas cookers are a “major source of indoor air pollution.”
“If the household has got an asthmatic child, they will have more symptoms than if they didn’t have a gas stove,” Prof. Kelly tells SWNS.
Focus on indoor air pollution is only just starting to catch up with its outdoor counterparts. Part of the problem is shrinking measuring equipment down for indoor use.
Does a stove need a health warning label?
Another study of residents in southern California reports that using gas stove tops routinely exposes users to nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde levels that exceed safety thresholds for outdoor pollution set by U.S. authorities. The problem is worse in smaller homes without adequate ventilation.
“One could argue the risk associated with a gas stove is likely to be larger than living in a polluted city,” says Prof. Steffen Loft from the University of Copenhagen.
According to scientists, gas cookers are also fueling global warming. A study in the U.S. reports that methane leaking from these stoves has a climate impact comparable with the carbon dioxide emissions from about 500,000 gasoline-powered cars. In the European Union, cooking with gas may be exposing over 100 million people to levels of indoor air pollution that would violate EU outdoor air pollution regulations, according to the nonprofit group NGO Clasp. They’re calling for all gas stoves to come with health warning labels.
Researchers and some politicians agree that if people have the opportunity, they should change to electric cookers.
This is a “relatively easy way of reducing your particulate matter and nitrogen oxide exposure,” says Prof. Nicola Carslaw at the University of York.
In the United States, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been calling for a complete ban on the sale and use of gas stoves. The proposal comes despite critics pointing out that the congresswoman still uses a gas stove herself.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.