Attacks on gas stoves are not really about health
By Steve Goreham
Originally published in Judge Washington.
Earlier this month, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that indoor gas stoves emit harmful pollution. Some studies suggest that the use of gas can cause respiratory diseases. CPSC is considering restrictions on gas stoves, including possible bans on new residential construction. But the attacks on gas stoves are based on dubious science and are largely motivated by unrelated health concerns.
CPSC is said to be considering act on gas stove since October. Richard Trumpka, Jr., CPSC commissioner, stated “This is a hidden danger. Any option is on the table. Unsafe products may be banned.” Two recent studies stand out in the agency’s interest. The first, published last January by Eric Lebel and others, found that gas stoves and ovens emit dangerous levels of methane and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The second, published last December by Talor Gruenwald and others, estimate that 12.7% of asthma cases in children in the US are caused by gas stove use.
Nitrogen oxide (NO) is generated at combustion temperatures above 1,600oC by breaking down nitrogen molecules in the air. Modern furnace flame reaches temperatures above 1,600oC, produces NO. Nitrogen oxide then combines with oxygen to form nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant. But the amount NO2 generated by the stove is very small, only parts per billion (ppb).
Lebel’s research measured nitrogen dioxide levels of 100 ppb in the kitchen, but this was after sealing the room with plastic—an unrealistic artificial condition. Another subjects find ARE NOT2 peaks of 34 ppb after several hours of using the stove and oven. This is below the 53 ppb limit of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard. EPA Statuses that, because NO2 levels below 50 ppb, “No health impact on air quality in this range.” Most of learn No dangerous levels of NO . were found2 from using the kitchen.
However, research by Gruenwald claims that nitrogen dioxide from gas stoves is linked to asthma in children. It used Statistical analysis to find the association between stoves and asthma in children in the US. But the study itself says it looked at 27 other studies involving gas stoves, and none reported “an association between gas stove use and asthma in children.” In addition, the Centers for Disease Control report that asthma attacks and asthma hospitalizations among U.S. children have decreased since 2001, while U.S. natural gas consumption rose 38 percent over the same period.
Could the health concerns over gas stoves represent a larger problem? For more than a decade, environmentalists have pushed for the “electrification” of homes. Historically, the term “electrification” meant extending the electricity grid to rural areas and homes without electricity. But the renewable energy movement has redefined electrification as electrifying everything. As they see it, electrifying homes means replacing gas stoves, fireplaces, water heaters and even propane ovens with electrical appliances. They say this is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle anthropogenic climate change.
Talor Gruenwald, lead author of the Childhood Asthma Study in the United States, was employed by the Rocky Mountain Institute, which also funded the study. For three decades, the institute has researched programs to combat global warming. Eric Lebel is a researcher at Stanford University, with articles on methane emissions from oil and gas wells, gas water heaters, and gas stoves. His goal seems to be to combat global warming through the electrification of homes by claiming harmful health effects from gas appliances.
The Netherlands and the UK are now calling on their residents to replace gas appliances with electric ones and heat pumps as part of a net-zero emissions program. These policies were passed even though 92% of households in the Netherlands use gas heat and 78% of households in the UK use gas. The Netherlands aims to disconnect gas lines from eight million households by 2050.
An electrification war rages in the United States. Cities in seven states—California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington—have establish Prohibit gas appliances in new construction. But in contrast, 19 other recent states promulgate laws that prevent local governments from banning natural gas and propane, or “decreasing consumers’ ability to choose utility services.” Four other states have proposed legislation banning local government bans.
Residents pay significantly more utility bills with electrical appliances. For example, in 2020, the average price of civil natural gas in California is $14.14 per million British Thermal Units (Btu). For a new natural gas burner or water heater that is 95 percent efficient, this means a cost of just under $13 per million Btu. California’s 2020 price of residential electricity is 20.51 cents per kWh, or a cost of $60.11 per million Btu. California residents can pay up to four times as much to operate an electric stove, water heater or electric heating, compared to gas appliances.
Banning gas stoves would increase homeowners’ costs and reduce choices without a marked improvement in health.
Steve Goreham is an environmental, business and public policy speaker and author of book Outside the Green Box: Rethinking Sustainable Development.