How Harmful Are Gas Stove Pollutants, Really?

How Harmful Are Gas Stove Pollutants, Really?

Every morning, millions of Americans light up their gas stoves to prepare breakfast or heat water, filling their homes with delicious aromas. However, what most people don’t realize is that these blue flames emit harmful pollutants, including nitrogen dioxides and planet-warming gases. To better understand the extent of this pollution and how it spreads within homes, a team of scientists from Stanford conducted a testing tour of New York City apartments as part of a larger 10-city study. The results of their research shed light on the dangers of gas stove pollutants and have prompted discussions about the health and climate effects of gas-burning stoves.

The Testing Tour

The Stanford scientists began their research in a public-housing project in Morningside Heights, Upper Manhattan. They faced the challenge of hauling 300 pounds of equipment to the 18th floor but were eager to learn more about the pollution caused by gas stoves. The apartment they visited belonged to Tina Johnson, a mother of three adult children. Mrs. Johnson, who volunteered to participate in the study due to her family’s health issues, had just cooked a breakfast of fried eggs and potatoes on her newly installed gas stove. Despite the new stove, she expressed her discomfort with the smell of gas and was curious about its impact on the air her family breathed.

Using analyzers and tubes placed at nose height, the researchers collected air samples after taking background readings. When they turned on the gas stove’s single small burner on high, the machinery quickly detected a rise in concentrations of nitrogen dioxide. These increased to 500 parts per billion, which is five times the safety benchmark for one-hour exposures set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Concentrations of benzene, a human carcinogen found in cigarette smoke and car emissions, also tripled. Even with the kitchen doorway sealed off and the window closed, nitrogen dioxide levels remained high. Opening the kitchen entrance and window reduced nitrogen dioxide levels but caused the fumes to spread to other parts of the apartment, surpassing the World Health Organization’s standards for chronic exposure in the bedroom.

Health Risks of Gas Stoves

Mounting scientific evidence supports the health risks associated with gas stoves. A study published last year found that gas stoves may be linked to nearly 13 percent of childhood asthma cases in the United States. Previous research has also shown that gas stoves exacerbate asthma symptoms. However, there are some simple steps individuals can take to reduce the danger, such as opening windows and using air purifiers.

Spread of Pollutants in Homes

One characteristic of New York residences is that people tend to live in close proximity to gas stoves compared to suburban settings. The Stanford researchers were surprised by the high concentrations of pollutants and how quickly they spread throughout the home. These findings highlight the need for better ventilation and pollution control measures to minimize exposure.

“Dinner Party Scenario”

Continuing their research, the team tested an Airbnb apartment in Central Harlem to simulate a “big family or dinner party scenario.” Nitrogen dioxide levels exceeded thresholds set by the EPA for one-hour exposures in the living room, bedroom, and kitchen. The presence of a hood in this apartment did not significantly improve air quality since the hot air blew out from the hood’s edge instead of venting outdoors. The team also encountered poor ventilation caused by sealed windows in a Brooklyn home, further exacerbating the high nitrogen dioxide concentrations in the immediate kitchen area.

Implications and Future Research

The Stanford team’s preliminary results align with existing scientific research that links gas stove emissions to harmful pollution affecting both climate change and public health. Gas stoves can continue to release emissions even when turned off due to natural gas leaks, which predominantly.