Gas stoves expose millions in the US to unsafe limits of nitrogen dioxide, and disadvantaged communities face higher risk

A recent study highlights the concerning impact of gas and propane stoves on indoor air quality, particularly regarding nitrogen dioxide exposure. This pollutant, emitted primarily by gas stoves, has been linked to health issues affecting tens of thousands of Americans, as per the findings published in the journal Science.

The study reveals that using a gas stove alone can push individuals to 75% of the annual nitrogen dioxide exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization. Conversely, electric stoves produce no nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Nitrogen dioxide inhalation can irritate the respiratory system, exacerbating existing conditions like asthma and increasing vulnerability to respiratory infections. Dr. Kari Nadeau, co-author of the study, emphasizes that exposure to such toxins, whether indoors or outdoors, poses health risks humans were not designed to endure.

Approximately one-third of U.S. households, nearly 50 million, utilize gas or propane stoves. However, factors such as home size, layout, ventilation, and cooking habits influence nitrogen dioxide exposure levels, disproportionately affecting disadvantaged communities.

The study indicates that people living in smaller homes are exposed to four times more nitrogen dioxide from gas stoves compared to those in larger residences. This disparity, influenced by historical and present-day discrimination, reflects socio-economic and racial inequities.

For marginalized groups like American Indian, Black, and Hispanic populations, nitrogen dioxide exposure from gas stoves surpasses WHO benchmarks. Moreover, the negative health impacts extend beyond the kitchen, with nitrogen dioxide concentrations exceeding safety thresholds in bedrooms within minutes of cooking.

Researchers estimate that long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide from gas stoves has led to approximately 50,000 cases of pediatric asthma in the U.S. They stress the importance of reducing gas stove usage to mitigate pollution-related health risks, advocating for shorter cooking times and lower heat settings.

While replacing gas stoves may not be feasible for all, alternatives like induction cooktops can help alleviate exposure. Additionally, maintaining well-ventilated spaces and circulating fresh air regularly are crucial for indoor air quality management.

Given that people spend the majority of their time indoors, addressing indoor air pollution is paramount. Yet, indoor air quality remains unregulated by the EPA, underscoring the need for individual and collective action to safeguard public health.