Monday, September 25, 2023

Exposing misinformation about gas versus electric stoves

Must read

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

The debate over the future of the gas stove has been going on for years, long before it degenerated into a full-blown culture war last week.

Public health officials, researchers, and physicians have long taken note of the abundant research linking pollution from the gas stove to respiratory problems, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced in December it was reviewing health risks to determine what regulations would be appropriate for the gas stove.

But after a member of the CPSC told Bloomberg in an interview last week that “products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” enthusiasm quickly mounted. Republicans (and some Democrats) painted the commissioner’s comment as a sign that the Biden administration was coming for the gas stove as its next assault on American freedom. And many defenders of the gas stove came forward claiming that it is the superior way of cooking.

The fracas spawned some new myths about gas stove regulation — and perpetuated other long-standing misunderstandings. Here’s how to separate fact from fiction.

Myth 1: Biden — or federal regulators — want to take away your gas stove

The hysteria that followed when the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced it would be scrutinizing gas stoves can be summed up with a tweet from Representative Ronny Jackson (R-TX). “I will NEVER give up my gas stove. If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it out of my cold, dead hands. COME GET IT!!”

Some confusion stems from comments by CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr., who told Bloomberg that “every option” is on the table as the independent agency considers the dangers of the gas stove: “Products that cannot be made safe may be banned ,” he said. The CPSC later clarified those comments: The committee said no ban is under consideration, and “the CPSC is looking at ways to mitigate related indoor air quality hazards.”

There are a host of other options, such as requiring hood vents to be sold alongside the gas stove and warning labels, that the committee could consider before issuing a full ban. And any CPSC regulation for stoves would apply to new products being sold, not products already in people’s homes.

Moreover, it is not the White House that is in control here. The CPSC commissioners are appointed by the president, but otherwise regulations are not vetted by the White House, unlike the Environmental Protection Agency’s process. States and cities are also already taking action to minimize the climate and health risks of burning gas indoors.

The White House has said so does not support banbut it promotes incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act that help people voluntarily electrify their homes.

Myth 2: The dangers of gas stoves are “newly discovered”

In a letter to the CPSC’s Trumka, Senator JD Vance (R-OH) calls the gas stove a “renewed ‘hidden danger’ that rests on limited research.” In another part, Vance says there is a “lack of convincing evidence”.

The research that attracted national attention estimated that nearly 13 percent of childhood asthma cases in the US are associated with gas stove use, comparable to the level caused by secondhand smoke. That study is based on a 2013 review of the evidence, which examined 41 studies from multiple countries, dating back to 1977, to conclude that children living in households with gas stoves have a 42 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with asthma at this time and a 24 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives.

“While the effects of gas cooking and indoor NO2 on asthma and wheezing were found to be relatively small … the impact on public health may still be significant because gas cooking is widespread,” concluded the authors of the 2013 evidence review.

These studies specifically looked at the impact of gas cooking. But there is an even longer trail of studies into the polluting nitrogen dioxide emitted by gas stoves and the harm it does to people exposed to it outdoors. In fact, outside NO2 pollution is regulated by the EPA, which has done its own thorough reviews NO2 risks.

Myth 3: No cooking method compares to the gas stove

The idea that gas is vastly superior to all its alternatives is pervasive and eagerly pushed by both appliance manufacturers and the natural gas industry. Whirlpool, which produces both gas and electricity, says soberly about it website“If you enjoy cooking meals that require rapid temperature changes, gas ranges may be your best bet.”

The comparisons between gas and electric are usually comparing apples and oranges: the contemporary gas stove versus outdated electric stoves. The better modern equivalent is induction, which uses electromagnetic energy to turn the pans themselves into a heat source, keeping the actual cooktop relatively cool. These new models come with settings that let you cook to a precise temperature and retain that heat, with a lower risk of burns. Other positive reviews note that induction stoves are easier to clean and can boil water faster than gas stoves.

Chefs are also more divided on induction versus gas than the public realizes. In a cafemadrid interview, Jon Kung, a chef from Detroit, noted that he prefers induction because it improves his indoor air quality and warmth in the home. He also noted that it allows you to use woks, a common complaint about switching from gas. Sierra magazine spoke to other chefs who prefer induction. “For me, it was an economic no-brainer,” said Chef Michael Godlewski when opening an all-induction restaurant in Pittsburgh in the spring of 2022 called EYV (Eat Your Veggies). “They asked me where I wanted the gas line, and I said, ‘Nowhere.'”

An induction range is expensive; it can cost you in the thousands of dollars. But costs are falling. One program that some households may qualify for is the Inflation Reduction Act tax credits and kitchen appliance rebates. The 25C tax credits include a range of energy-efficient products for the home, including an induction range. This allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of home electrical work (up to $1,200). Discounts will also be available later this year under the Discount program for high-efficiency electric homes. Households making up to 150 percent of the local median income will reduce the initial cost of the appliance and installation. Lower-income households (less than 80 percent of the median income) can have all their costs covered by the program.

Meanwhile, households that don’t want to wait or don’t qualify can also opt for one portable plug-in induction cookerwhich costs much less and is tenant-friendly.

Myth 4: Most of America uses gas stoves

Gas stoves are common, but not ubiquitous. According to the Energy Information Administration, an average of 38 percent of the country uses gas for cooking, or about 40 million stoves. But those numbers vary widely depending on where you are. New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California have the highest rates of gas stoves in the country, over 60 percent. Southeastern States have some of the lowest rates in the country, less than 20 percent.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) responded to the CPSC shake-up tweet“I can tell you the last thing that would ever leave my house is the gas stove we cook on.”

Manchin itself may have a gas stove, but many in his state do not. In fact, a study by the MER found in 2020 that a quarter of West Virginia residents have a gas stove, while 73 percent have electric cooking.

The consequences of gas appliances are also not evenly distributed. Children with smaller lungs are at greater risk of developing complications from NO2, and that includes older adults and those with pre-existing health conditions. Another risk factor is if a person is already exposed to other sources of pollution in addition to the stove. They may live near a highway, an industrial estate, or even an area with concentrated gas appliances that all blow out, causing them to breathe dirty air both inside and out.

Myth 5: As long as you use ventilation, the risks don’t matter

The American Gas Association website emphasizes that with ventilation as one working hood, the gas stove is not a problem for indoor air quality. The editors of the Wall Street Journal echoed this: “Studies flogged by the leftist climate do not consider the effects of ventilation. One even sealed a test kitchen with plastic sheeting to demonstrate that gas stoves increase pollution.”

Ventilating the kitchen is the only solution we have to reduce exposure to pollutants when the stove or oven is on. But in practice, some hoods do not exhaust the air outside, but recirculate it inside, or people are in a small space where pollution builds up faster. Some of the problems are behavioral – like people not even using the hood they have, by neglecting to turn it on. Part of the problem is that not all hoods can filter NO2 levels. As a journalist explained Michael Thomas, range hoods don’t always perform well in the real world. Studies, such as at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) found that compliant fume hoods still capture about half of NO in California2 pollution.

More recent research from LBNL found that a gas stove can also leak methane, a greenhouse gas, even when the appliance is turned off. In the home, methane levels are probably so low that the researchers do not consider these leaks a threat to health. But methane is also a bigger problem, not only because of the climate risks, but also because it contributes to ground-level ozone that is harmful to human health.


More articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest article