Health and environmental experts are coming for your gas stove

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Health experts are advising to use electric stoves over glass flames.

Electric coil and induction stoves run on electricity, with the potential for “green” energy sources such as solar and wind power. Gas stoves, though decidedly easier to control for cooking, require the use of fossil fuels, namely natural gas. Their carbon dioxide emissions, while lower than that of other oil or coal, are one of the many factors contributing to climate change.

But natural gas combustion isn’t just bad for Earth’s atmosphere. Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit advocacy organization for sustainability, have revealed that toxins, such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, are collecting inside homes at levels considered unsafe by some outdoor standards.

“It’s really a cocktail of emissions that they put out,” said Brady Seals, expert electrician at the Rocky Mountain Institute, who co-authored a report on their findings. She told Earther, “There’s the emissions from the gas itself, the main ones of which are nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. And then there’s the particulate matter, or the small pollution particles, that come from the stove flames and from the food that’s getting cooked.”

“Carbon monoxide and the nitrogen dioxide are really produced every time you turn on your gas stove, whether or not you’re burning,” said Seals, noting that the gases are “invisible odorless pollutants.”

While oven fans and hoods help reduce inhaling such toxins, which can cause potential harms ranging from respiratory irritations to mental-health issues, experts fear they aren’t used enough. According to California’s energy commission, only 15% of those with gas stoves consistently use their hood vents, Earther reported. Some hood vent emissions better than others too, some as high as 98% or as low as 15%, according to a 2012 study by the American Chemical Society.

There’s also a growing trend among new home developments to forgo the hood installation altogether, according to experts.

“It’s a little bit shocking that most appliances are required by law to be vented outdoors, but a gas stove with a range hood is not, so the regulations really vary by state,” Seals said. “What you’ll find is that some people don’t have any hoods, but some have hoods that just recirculate the air around the home.”

And the vent beneath the microwave that hangs above some stoves doesn’t count.

Seals suggested an at-home experiment to find out if your hood sucks or “sucks,” placing a tissue (stove off!) below the vent and turning on the fan. A good hood will be able to pull up the tissue.

When all else fails, open your windows.

“Even opening a window for five minutes or less can make a big difference in having these pollutants leave the home,” she said.

Despite these short-term domestic solutions, the use of natural gas poses a variety of well-known hazards from building fires to carbon monoxide poisoning, and there are proposals across the country to phase-out gas stoves, Earther reports.

Seals and other environmental experts would prefer no one uses gas, or any fossil fuel for any reason, ever again — and that mission begins at home.

“If we don’t take out the gas stove, we’ll still keep putting in gas pipelines,” Seals said. “We need to ensure that no new buildings that get built can run on gas.”

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