February 15, 2023

Why Is Everyone Talking About Gas Stoves?

Family cooking together at gas stove

You’ve probably read or heard a lot about gas stoves in the news and on social media recently. Are they safe for indoor cooking? Should I replace mine? How are gas stoves linked to climate change?


In this post, we’ll unpack what there is to know about gas stoves, including science-based evidence about how they affect our health and climate change. We’ll also dig into options to protect your health, long-term.


What’s all the discussion about?

In early January, Bloomberg reported that the Consumer Product Safety Commission would consider a ban on installing a gas stove when building new homes. The reason is because of a new study that added to decades of peer-reviewed, science-based studies demonstrating that gas stoves are hazardous to our health.


Many opponents of climate action are using this news to spread fear and alarm about whether consumers will be able to use their existing gas stoves already in their homes. That’s misleading and false. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering regulation of new gas stoves, like those you’d find in stores, in order to protect Americans’ health. We see this in many cases of products that pose a risk to health, from children’s toys to cribs to fireworks. Nothing will happen to people who already use a gas stove, whether as a renter or homeowner, and want to keep doing so.


But fear and alarm are common scare tactics, and one we’ve seen in the debate over availability of energy efficient lightbulbs or plastic straws. Whether it’s drilling for the oil that makes plastic straws or the gas wells that lead to gas stoves, the fossil fuel industry is making the big bucks, so they’re the ones with the most to lose if gas stoves are banned in newly built homes They're hoping that if we're all too busy arguing over gas stoves, we might not notice that the fossil fuel industry is raking in record profits while impacts from an accelerating climate crisis ricochet across the globe. Here’s what you should know about gas stoves.


Gas stoves and your health

At Seventh Generation, the health of today’s communities and the next seven generations is a critical priority for us. It’s why we work hard to make sure that as many of our household cleaning products as possible are formulated with human and planetary health in mind. As you’re cleaning your gas range of late, you might be wondering, how does this affect my health?


A growing body of research shows gas stoves may have significant effects on our health and that of our family. Specifically:

  • Gas stoves emit nitrogen dioxide–a gas usually found coming from places like vehicle tailpipes and power plants, and associated with the haze you see in smog. The problem: nitrogen dioxide causes or worsens asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung diseases. Consumer Reports’ testing lab recently found levels of nitrogen dioxide emitted by gas stoves inside homes above those recommended by public health organizations.
  • New peer-reviewed research published last December in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that more than 12% of current childhood asthma cases in the US can be attributed to gas stove use.
  • According to the California Air Resources Board, a public agency charged with protecting public health, gas and propane stoves also release formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and other gases dangerous to people and pets. As you probably know, carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas, and the reason many homes have automatic detectors in the home.
  • The risks are so substantial that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering regulating gas stoves, while the American Public Health Association, American Medical Association and Consumer Reports have urged consumers to shift away from gas stoves.


What do gas stoves have to do with climate change?

Gas stoves emit methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon emissions. Research shows that even when gas stoves aren’t running, they emit 2.6 million tons of methane. That’s equal to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from half a million cars! Worse yet, when the natural gas line connecting to the stove isn’t fitted properly, or suffers from wear and tear, the leaks are even worse than in a new, properly installed stove. With more than 40 million Americans using gas stoves in their homes, many older appliances running on older gas lines, so that’s a huge climate risk.

Let’s be clear: the biggest polluters that contribute the most to climate change bear the greatest responsibility to secure a safe, healthier future. Consumers can play a role by evaluating how and where we use fossil fuels, how they affect our health, and, for those with the resources, take action to do something about it. We can do this while keeping our eye on the ball: pressuring utilities to shift away from fossil fuels, demanding regulators require companies to set course for a future that is free of fossil fuels, and other actions to protect our planet.


So what can I do if I plan to keep my stove?

If you already use a gas stove and plan to keep using it, there are several steps you can take to protect your health and minimize the use of fossil fuels. Experts recommend:

  • Installing and using a range hood to allow for ventilation while cooking with gas.
  • If you can’t install a range hood, install or turn on fans, such as an overhead or tabletop fan, and open windows.
  • Only using the gas flame on “high” when absolutely needed, such as to boil water. Research shows health risks and climate risks increase with a higher flame.
  • Where possible, minimize the use of your gas stove and oven altogether, by using electricity. For example, if you have an electric kettle, use it to boil water, then add the water to the pot, turn on the flame, and add pasta to cook. Instead of using your gas oven to reheat just a slice of pizza or two, use an electric toaster oven–it will save you money and time, too! Use a microwave and other appliances to heat food, where possible.


What about if I’m ready to make a switch?

If you’d like to replace your gas stove, or don’t have a range and are considering what to purchase, an electric range is a great, safer way to go. You can also consider an induction stove–emerging technology that uses magnets to heat food. These are 5-10% more efficient than electric stoves, and three times more efficient than gas stove. For example, you can boil 6 quarts of water 2-4 minutes faster than on a gas or electric range–saving you money on your utility bill! And they’re safer–induction stoves have an auto shut off feature, so unlike electric stoves, there is no risk of, say, a child touching a hot cooktop and burning themselves. And of course, they don’t release any gases that are dangerous to your health or the planet.


For low-income households making up to 80% of the area median income, there’s a federal rebate! For example, a household living in downtown Boston making less than $106,000 can receive a rebate for an electric or induction range for up to $840. Many states and local municipalities also offer incentives. For induction ranges specifically, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts offers another $500–totaling $1,340. That covers 100% of the cost of most induction cooktops, and many induction ranges as well. You may need an electrician to upgrade the outlet in your kitchen, an expense that is also covered by many rebates. Check out Rewiring America’s calculator to get started.


Ultimately, you know best how to protect your health and that of your family, whether and when to make adjustments throughout your home to do so. We’re here to provide you information and tools to make informed choices based on science and grounded in our values–ensuring a safe, healthier future for today’s communities, and the next seven generations to come.