WASHINGTON — You may have seen headlines about new scientific findings that have you considering a kitchen remodel, but the researchers behind the study say it’s not that simple.
Does a study encourage removing your gas stove due to alarming health concerns?
- The study in question: Methane and NOx Emissions from Natural Gas Stoves, Cooktops, and Ovens in Residential Homes
- Eric Lebel, senior scientist at PSE and one of the researchers behind the study
No--but your gas stove isn't completely innocent here.
WHAT WE FOUND
Recently, an article on a popular “mommy blog” fueled a trending conversation online. It claimed researchers are ripping out their gas stoves because of alarming health concerns.
One of the studies authors, Eric Lebel, says that’s only partially true.
“Based on our findings, I don't know if it makes sense to immediately rip out a perfectly good gas stove, if you have one," he said. "What does make sense is to start planning for the future and planning for a world in which you do ultimately replace your gas stove with a with a less climate and health damaging electric stove. That doesn't need to happen immediately."
Stanford scientists looked at the stoves of various makes, models, and ages in 53 California homes.
They measured a release of “Nitrogen dioxide,” which can build up in a small or unventilated space when the stovetop’s in use.
"Nitrogen dioxide is a well known respiratory irritant, causes coughing, asthma, wheezing, and it's particularly prone in children," said Lebel.
But Lebel says the study’s focus was another gas: methane.
Each oven passively released methane, and they found more than 75% of the total emissions happened when the stoves were off.
“We don't know exactly what's causing it and it's something that we want to follow up on going forward to see if it's like a manufacturing thing or if it's something as simple as just people need to check their gas connection more often to the wall to see if make sure that there's not a leak there," said Lebel.
He says the methane levels measured were nowhere near explosive or what would cause serious health concerns, but running the numbers, the researchers estimate the methane emissions from gas stoves each year is about equal to that of half a million gas powered cars.
“Being able to reduce methane emissions really will have a pretty dramatic impact on on our climate goals, and then in the next few decades,” he said. "The natural gas system is one of the bigger sources of methane emissions, terms of something that we can do something about."
The findings coincide with other recent studies, including those cited in pushes to ban gas stoves in California.
"There are ways to avoid these concentrations of pollutants from the stove, which involves opening your window or using your exhaust if you have one when every time you cook with your stove," said Lebel. "If you're not planning on getting rid of your gas stove now, just to plan for the future, and make sure you have that electric upgrade if necessary in your kitchen."