Why natural gas stoves are bad for our health and climate

WOODbecause kitchens are associated with a certain glamor: images of celebrity chefs cooking in high-end kitchens are sought after over an open fire. At the same time, electric stoves and their dated coils have been shunned by many home food enthusiasts. But recently, that wisdom is being turned upside down as the world comes to a fuller understanding of the harmful effects of Health and climate effects associated with our love of gas stoves.

A startling learn published in January by Stanford University discovered that natural gas stoves — which more than a third homes used by Americans — can emit levels of indoor air pollution-related and may play a larger role in driving climate change than was previously believed . Even when they are not in use, natural gas stoves have been shown to release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and other harmful gases. harmful pollutants—Includes formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide—Leaks through and in the service line.

The findings raise a much larger question about whether households around the world should switch to potentially safer and more efficient induction cookers.

Methane leak found in American kitchen

Historically, residential homes and buildings have been a blind spot when it comes to methane emissions. Very few studies have attempted to measure the methane emissions of living in our homes and working in buildings; one learn suggests that we may be underestimating this impact in cities. Above all, fossil fuel industry has diligently researched to turn gas stoves into one of America’s most loved appliances.

Stanford professor of earth system science Rob Jackson and his team at Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment are helping to change this understanding with their January gas stove study — the first to analyze the issue. Publish their work in a peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology, the team measured the methane and nitrous oxide emissions in 53 homes in California during different stages of the cooking process. In total, 18 brands of gas stoves and stoves aged 3 to 30 years old were analyzed.

They estimate that the amount of methane leaking from natural gas stoves in the US is equivalent to the emissions emitted by half a million gasoline-powered cars each year. Using just one gas stove for a year emitted an average of 649 grams of methane – the same amount as a 40-mile drive. In addition to contributing to climate change, these pollutants can cause health effect, including respiratory diseases such as asthma and cognitive impairment, both of which are particularly susceptible to childhood diseases. Tiny particulate matter released from the gas can also penetrate deep into the lungs, and short-term exposure can cause irritation not only in the lungs but also in the eyes, nose and throat.

Methane is emitted not only when the stove is in use, but also when the stove is turned off. In fact, more than three-quarters of all methane emissions from stoves happen when they’re turned off, the study found – a phenomenon that can be explained by leaky pipes and faulty connections. properly between natural gas connectors and their appliances. power. “Having only the stove in your home creates a potential pathway of exposure to air pollutants,” says Seth Sockoloffexecutive director of PSE Healthy Energy, an institute that has partnered with Stanford University on research.

The size of your kitchen and the type of ventilation available can also change how much of an impact a gas stove will have, explains Stanford study co-author. Eric Lebel. For example, in one of the rooms measured, using an oven without any ventilation resulted in nitrous oxide levels exceeding safety standards established by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

For example, according to a report published by the National Center for Healthy Housing and Business Community Partners, the level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) when baking in a gas oven measured 230 parts per billion (ppb). This is similar to the amount of NO2 found in smoke, (about 200 ppb), based on research association, University of Atmospheric Research Corporation.

While the Stanford study looked at only a handful of homes, the team believes their state-level findings can be applied to the rest of the country, with little regional variation. , suggesting that the impact of appliances that use natural gas may be underestimated. And two decades of residential methane emissions data analyzed by the research-supported climate nonprofit RMI. “Amazingly in the US, gas stoves are not widely required outdoors,” says RMI renewable energy expert Brady’s Seal told TIME. “So most of the pollution that gets into the kitchen is still there.”

Based on all this, Jackson “absolutely” believes that gas stoves are more harmful to the environment and human health than electric stoves. “The kitchen is the only appliance where we are allowed to release pollution directly into our homes,” he said. “Every fireplace or water heater is required to be vented to the outdoors — we would never stand on the exhaust of a car, but we are perfectly happy standing on our stove and breathing their pollution”.

Are induction cookers better for your health and the climate?

For decades, induction cookers have been used in Europe, now creating over 35% of the global market. However, in the US, induction cookers are only just beginning to gain popularity, with energy expert and equipment manufacturer are now touting them as an eco-friendly natural gas stove alternative.

Just like electric stoves, induction hobs plug into a power source, but they differ in how they generate that heat. As the name suggests, induction cookers use induction technology. Electric current flows through copper wire coiled below the cooking surface, creating a magnetic current that flows directly to the cooking pan to generate heat. This magnetic induction essentially transfers energy from the hob directly to any cookware that has a magnetic base. It’s likely that some of the pots and pans in your kitchen will now be suitable for induction hobs, including those made of stainless steel, cast iron, and metal-glazed porcelain. (To find out if yours is compatible, device manufacturer Frigidaire suggestion a simple “magnet test”.)

Because heat is transferred directly to pots and pans, the stovetop will be cool to the touch. This more precise way of heating means more powerful cooking: induction cookers can Boil water up to 50 percent faster compared to their gas and electric counterparts while maintaining a stable and accurate temperature, note Frigidaire.

Induction cookers are also much more economical than conventional electric and gas stoves. Government-backed energy efficiency monitoring Energy Star Note Induction hobs transfer heat with an efficiency of about 85%, much better than gas stoves (32%) and most electric stoves (75-80%). A spokesperson for the US Environmental Protection Agency told TIME: “Induction cookers are about 5 to 10 percent more efficient per unit than conventional resistive units and about three times more efficient. times that of gas. If all U.S. cooking items sold in 2021 use induction technology that meets government-recommended usage guidelines, Energy Star estimates that the cost savings will be more than 125 million dollars.

But this increased efficiency comes with a higher price tag. Induction hobs start at around $1,000 compared to a few hundred dollars for conventional electric or gas stoves. So, is this more expensive but highly efficient stove also better for your health?

Like other home appliances, including microwaves and toasters, induction cookers emit electromagnetic waves. But the amount is low enough to be considered safe by the standards set by the regulator Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. While some Soon learn raised questions about whether these electromagnetic fields could be harmful to children and fetusWorld Health Organization 2007 Find There is no convincing evidence that medium frequency magnetic fields have long-term effects on human health. Meanwhile, the gas stove has been link arrive Higher than 42% rate of asthma in children.

Kenneth McCloud, a professor at Binghamton University in New York who studies the effects of electromagnetic fields on humans, says that studies to determine the potential effects of induction cooktops are difficult to control and often fail to show there is sufficient evidence that this device is harmful. “Are any of those effects dangerous?” he says. “As for what you might be exposed to indoors, I’m not aware of any adverse effects.”

As with any other appliance, when using an induction hob, be sure to read and understand all safety instructions. This includes using cookware of appropriate size and construction and maintaining a safe distance using rear cooking zones.

Future energy transition

The long-term effects of continued burning of fossil fuels and climate-related impacts further exacerbate health problems – from worse air quality to exacerbation of heat stress. and aggravate natural disasters. “Although we may be feeling the health impacts from gas stoves earlier than climate impacts,” says Seals at RMI, “at the macro level, gas burning,” says Seals at RMI. Indoor burning makes us dependent on these climate-disrupting fuels and the leaky infrastructure that supports them.”

To limit climate change and its effects, science says we need to transition away from fossil fuels. To do this, some states like Massachusetts and Cities in California is pushing for legislation to Prohibiting natural gas hookups in new buildings and promote all-electric new construction through incentives and discount. In December 2021, New York City becomes biggest in the country to issue that rule.

“The idea is that we don’t want to lock these gas appliances into the infrastructure for the next 20 or 30 years — that’s how long a gas stove will last,” says Lebel. “If someone buys a gas stove today, that appliance will be in one’s kitchen for decades to come.”

Meanwhile, not everyone can afford to upgrade immediately, and the environmental impacts of producing new stoves and removing old stoves before the end of their life should not be ignored, the researchers said. Stanford notes. Similar to electric vehicles, it is necessary to have a better understanding of what requires more resources such as minerals for the stove. So until the right time to choose induction — maybe when looking for a new apartment or taking advantage of discounts to make the switch — the researchers suggest taking steps small initial to progress to the electrification of residential kitchens.

These include strategies like investing in induction pots and pans that can be used on other types of hobs and updating electrical outlets and appliances, like induction hobs, as time and money permit. Until then, always keep the hood or fan on and open nearby windows when operating the natural gas stove.

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