How gas stoves became part of America’s raging culture wars

For Emma Hines, the current conversation about the dangers of gas stoves is reminiscent of the national conversation about cigarette smoke in the 1960s.

Following the release of a series of studies warning of nicotine’s potential health harms a decade earlier, a 1964 US Surgeon General’s report reignited a topic researchers had been discussing – cigarette smoke and lung cancer The link between diseases like .

Hines, a member of the American Public Health Association, said, “I benefit every day from the research and advocacy of that time, and my risk of being exposed to secondhand smoke from cigarettes has been greatly reduced over the decades before. ” 1990s. “As more evidence mounts on the negative health effects of gas stove pollution, I hope future generations will have a similar story to tell.”

While it’s too early to say whether cooking on a gas stove will one day be like smoking on an airplane, environmentalists, researchers and others say the events of recent weeks show that the conversation about the appliances needs to be discussed. Times have changed.

Numerous studies from a growing body of research have consistently shown that gas stoves emit harmful pollutants, even when not in use. The gas industry, which has long denied scientific concerns about stoves, has launched its own aggressive campaign to undermine the recent findings.

In the latest development, the American Public Health Association issued a statement on January 18 urging the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recognize the relationship between gas stove emissions, nitrogen oxides and nitrogen oxides. (or NO₂) pollution and the increased risks of disease for children, older adults and people with underlying conditions.

Hines, who is a health and air quality associate at the Rocky Mountain Institute, was lead author of the association’s statement.

“Several high-quality scientific studies have shown that NO₂ concentrations are higher in homes that use gas stoves and that cooking with a gas stove without ventilation can result in NO₂ concentrations in the home that are harmful to the environment Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ambient air quality standards. ,” said members of the association.

In the statement, the members noted that “while extensive federal legislation regulates outdoor air quality in the United States, there are no federal indoor air quality guidelines, and few state or local policies address indoor air pollution.”

“Those living in smaller, older, less ventilated homes are at greater risk of exposure to indoor air pollutants from a variety of sources, presenting a disproportionate risk of disease among low-income populations and people of color,” he said.

In response to the statement, an official from the American Gas Association said it “believes an unfounded causal relationship between gas-fired cooking and public health concerns.”

“The proposed policy statement, which would suggest that public health representatives take action based on an inaccurate and incomplete analysis of the existing scientific literature, does not appear to capture the APHA mission of backing policies based on science,” Karen Harbert, American President Gas Association said in a letter to the director of APHA.

The American Gas Association recently issued statements to counter some new research about gas stoves. An RMI study found that 12.7 percent of current childhood asthma cases nationwide are attributable to gas stove use. The authors of that peer-reviewed study, which was published December 21 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, said the finding was similar to the burden of childhood asthma attributed to secondhand smoke exposure .

According to the report, about 35 percent of the homes in America have gas stoves.

“A total of seven studies have been conducted since 2013 to determine whether there is an association between asthma and gas stoves,” a spokesperson for the American Gas Association said in a statement. “Five out of seven found no statistically significant association between gas stoves and asthma.”

Earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering a ban on gas stoves. The head of the agency later issued a statement saying that was not the case.

“Over the past several days, the Commission on Gas Stove Emissions and Consumer Product Safety has received a great deal of attention,” wrote Alexander Hohen-Sarik, chairman of the commission. “Research indicates that emissions from gas stoves can be dangerous, and the CPSC is looking for ways to reduce the associated indoor air quality hazards. But to be clear, I am not about banning gas stoves. thinking and the CPSC has no action to do so.”

Despite Hohen-Sarik’s statement, politicians began to press for the gas stove, which soon became part of the culture wars. Conservative lawmakers seized on the story, and Fox News announced: “Biden is coming for your gas stove.” A White House spokesman responded that, no, President Biden does not seek to ban gas stoves.

Although mass production of gas stoves marked a significant shift decades ago, further consideration of the appliance’s use has emerged as a public policy priority for environmental advocates.

“For better or worse, its politics have muddied an issue that we’ve known about for 50 years but was relatively obscure, which I think millions of people are now aware of, which is most telling to me.” That’s kind of a big win,” said Brady Sills, one of the authors of the RMI study. “I think the most alarming thing is that people didn’t know about it. And I mean, maybe I’m an optimist, but I think most people are sensible and aren’t too attached to their gas stove or thinking the government is going to come take your gas stove because sure Frankly, it was never going to happen. But they are thinking and they are looking towards the gas stove of their house.

Lisa Patel, pediatrician and deputy executive director of the medical society Consortium on Climate and Health, said it’s unfortunate whenever politics is injected into science.

“I think it’s a shame because when we take some big steps back and ask ourselves, ‘What’s really important here?’ Health is important. Children’s health is important,” she said. “And it’s unfortunate to me that in all this political noise, we’re losing sight of that.”

“What it comes down to is making sure we live in healthy homes where people are breathing clean air.”

Patel said there are three pollutants from gas stoves that are of concern: particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. And while there are health concerns associated with those pollutants — including asthma, heart disease and cancer — researchers say there are climate change concerns, too: A 2022 study projected that emissions from gas stoves could be Year releases as much benzene as about 60,000 cars.

Robert Dubrow, professor of epidemiology and director of the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health, Environmental Health Sciences, said gas stoves are an important issue for both health and climate.

“Even if climate change wasn’t happening, there was no problem, just for health reasons, we should be slowly phasing out gas stoves,” Dubrow said.

“We need to collect more data,” he said. “And I think the data will continue to support what they show is, ‘Yes, they are injurious to health.'”

Patel said the news of gas stoves was met with a bit of defensiveness and some denial because people don’t want to believe that what they have in their homes right now could be harmful to their health. But she hopes that over time people will look at the evidence.

“We know what the evidence says about these gas stoves – there’s really no rebuttal to it,” she said. “I think it’s going to take a while for people to sink in after the emotional response wears off, to really be able to apply a more scientific lens to this problem.”

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Patel said that as more people switch to induction cooktops and it feels more normal—like when regulations changed and people stopped smoking indoors—it’s becoming “more culturally appropriate for people.” will become familiar and the emotional response to it will subside.”

In a January 13 press release, a spokesperson for the American Gas Association said the RMI report “is funded by non-governmental organizations working to advance their agenda for consumer energy choices and the removal of alternatives to natural gas.” Not only are they pushing bad science, but wildly creating unwarranted fear among homeowners.

The release also states, “Organizations making these allegations are relying on reports that did not test natural gas stoves and ignored research that found no association between gas stoves and asthma.”

Patel said “That’s the same thing the tobacco industry told us, right? It was the same thing the sugar industry tells us. They want to sell a product so their sales are at risk, and so they’ll say they need to protect their Whatever is needed to continue selling the product.

She said: “That’s fine. I’m here to protect the health of children. And so my message is quite different.”

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