It has been claimed that cooking with a gas hob could be worse for our lungs than the dirty air of a polluted city street.
Indoor air pollution is a growing field of research, as scientists try to learn about both indoor and outdoor pollutants.
A study by RMI, a US-based nonprofit organization that wants to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources, found last month that “12.7% of current childhood asthma in the US is attributable to the use of gas stoves”.
The article, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, also claimed that by not using gas stoves, up to a fifth of childhood asthma cases could be prevented.
“You could argue that the risk associated with a gas stove is probably higher than living in a polluted city,” Professor Steffen Loft, from the University of Copenhagen, who was not involved in the research, tells NewScientist.
Previous studies show the danger of indoor air pollution
Other scientists, such as Jonathan Grigg, professor of pediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London, say it’s hard to compare outdoor levels of nitrogen dioxide from car exhaust with emissions from an indoor stove.
“I can’t say how bad the exposure is from a gas hob compared to one by the roadside because it obviously depends on how long you cook for and where you are on the road,” he told The Telegraph.
Previous studies have shown that indoor air pollution could pose health problems, especially for children.
Pollution from wood stoves, for example, led to the creation of smokeless fuels and restrictions on what can and cannot be burned.
Professor Grigg told The Telegraph that more information is emerging about the damage from other sources of indoor pollution, such as nitrogen dioxide from gas stoves.
“It’s been known for some time and there is increasing evidence that indoor nitrogen dioxide is associated with the development of asthma, for example,” he said.
“Long-term exposure is associated with the development of respiratory diseases such as asthma.”
‘We need to solve indoor air quality’
He added that living in a home with gas, compared to a home without gas, probably increases an adult’s chance of having persistent asthma by a factor of five.
“The five times higher risk is quite significant in the grand scheme of things,” said Professor Grigg.
“Everyone knows that nitrogen dioxide from traffic is bad for your health. We know. What may not be so well known is that cooking gas is a very powerful source of nitrogen dioxide.
“We really need to address indoor air quality because a lot of kids and people spend a great deal of time indoors. It’s not like switching to all electric cars, switching to an electric cooker is certainly doable.
“In my opinion, we have to clear gas cookers with electric cookers. I think that would make a big difference to indoor air quality, that’s for sure.”
Professor Grigg, who co-authored a paper on the effects of indoor air pollution on children for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in 2020, believes the era of gas cookers is coming to an end and likened their demise imminent with that of the gasoline car.
“The gas stove is going the way of the gasoline car. Sooner or later he will leave and he probably has to leave sooner,” she said.
“Combining the electric induction cooker with proper ventilation is probably the most sustainable and safest way of cooking.”