The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering a ban on gas stoves, which can damage respiratory health, especially in children. Natural gas stoves are used in 35 percent to 40 percent of American households, and a recent peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that over 12 percent of pediatric asthma cases in the U.S. can be linked to the use of gas stoves.
Childhood asthma risks related to gas stove use is almost identical to the risks associated with secondhand smoke, according to the study. Particularly in small kitchens, nitrous dioxide levels can rise above outdoor air pollution standards within a few minutes of cooking, and even when they are shut off, gas ranges leak nitrous dioxide and methane, pollutants that harm human lungs and warm the planet.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will open a public comment period this winter. Agency commissioner Richard Trumka, Jr. was quick to note that a ban would only apply to new products and would not affect gas stoves currently installed in U.S. homes.
Trumka wrote on Twitter: “To be clear, CPSC isn't coming for anyone's gas stoves. Regulations apply to new products. For Americans who choose to switch from gas to electric, there is support available. Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act which includes a $840 rebate.” The Inflation Reduction Act passed last year includes a $4.5 billion fund earmarked to assist low- and middle-income Americans transition from gas to electric appliances.
This latest move from the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been in the works for decades. The Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate only outdoor, and not indoor, air pollution. Advocates have lobbied the Consumer Product Safety Commission for years to regulate gas stoves, and in December, Trumka announced that he would be seeking public comment on regulations surrounding gas stoves no later than March.
Trumka’s December announcement came on the heels of a letter from a group of Democratic lawmakers urging the agency to require gas stoves to be sold with high-efficiency range hoods, shut-off valves and risk labels, as well as to create performance standards for gas stoves that address pollutant leakages when the appliances are off.
The letter from the lawmakers noted that over 40 million American homes are equipped with gas stoves and noted: “A range of studies have shown that, when used without adequate ventilation, cooking with a gas stove can raise indoor concentrations of these pollutants to levels that the Environmental Protection Agency considers to be unsafe even outdoors. Further, methane leaks from gas stoves inside U.S. homes were recently found to contribute the equivalent climate impacts as about 500,000 gasoline-powered cars and, importantly, more than three-quarters of the leaks occurred while the appliance was not in use.” The lawmakers also asked the agency to create and implement a public education campaign about the health risks associated with gas stoves.
Industry groups representing the natural gas and kitchen appliance sectors have been quick to push back against the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and the American Gas Association have both released statements opposing a potential ban on gas stoves. The statement from the American Gas Association claims the agency has not presented any evidence of health risks from gas stoves.
The American Gas Association also released a statement claiming that the recent study on asthma and gas stoves published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health was not based on “sound science.” However, decades of research point to natural gas appliances being a contributing factor in respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.
Trumka said the Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering options other than a ban on gas stoves, such as setting standards on appliance emissions. The Commission could issue a final proposal as early as the end of 2023.
Mary Riddle is a writer and sustainability consultant based in Florence, Italy. As a former farmer and farm educator, she is passionate about regenerative agriculture and sustainable food systems. Currently, she and her husband also own and operate Italy in Season, a subscription box company with a mission to support small-scale Italian artisans and traditional craftsmanship.