State Director, Illinois PIRG
State Director, Illinois PIRG
Guide helps families reduce exposure to pollution that contributes to asthma
Illinois PIRG Education Fund
The holiday season often entails spending a lot of hours in the kitchen cooking. As millions of Americans prepare holiday meals to share with their families, a new guide from U.S. PIRG Education Fund offers tips on how to minimize unhealthy air pollution from cooking with gas in your home. Without proper precautions, too much exposure to a gas stove can lead to an unnecessary and invisible health risk, since gas stoves can cause elevated levels of indoor pollution that would exceed legal limits for outdoor air.
“For many Americans, the kitchen is a special place during the holidays — a place for bonding, for catching up with family and friends, and for making meals that we remember and look forward to all year,” said Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG Education Fund Director. “It shouldn’t be a place where we have to worry about breathing toxic pollutants from our appliances. But with gas stoves, that’s the reality. Ultimately, electric or induction cooktops are going to be the healthiest choices for American families, but if you’re stuck cooking with gas this holiday season, you can take measures to protect your family.”
Cooking with gas relies on combusting methane. Even doing so for a short time can lead to unhealthy levels of gases such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) inside your home that far exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) safety standards for outdoor pollution. Breathing NO2 is dangerous for everyone, but especially children. An analysis found that children living in homes with gas cooking had a 42% higher chance of experiencing current asthma symptoms and a 24% higher chance over their lifetime of being diagnosed with asthma.
“Who knew that the pollutants from a gas stove are dangerous? Unfortunately, they are, especially to the developing lungs of children,” said Barbara Gottlieb, director of Environment & Health at Physicians for Social Responsibility. “The notion that gas stoves are pollution-free is a story we’ve been sold. It’s not true. If you use a gas stove, please take the simple precautions that will protect your health.”
U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s new guide lists several of those key precautions, including how to install and use proper ventilation. The guide takes families through different vent hood styles and placements, the difference between ducted and non-ducted vents, and how to calculate how many cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air you need to remove from your stove and kitchen to stay safe and healthy. It also recommends purchasing a low-cost, portable induction cooktop, which can provide alternative, pollution-free burners and help minimize the amount of time you spend cooking with gas.
“Electric induction equipment is able to produce high-quality food, in a fraction of the time, without sacrificing indoor air quality,” said Chef Christopher Galarza, the founder and culinary sustainability consultant for Forward Dining Solutions. “The switch to electric induction paired with proper ventilation not only reduces the indoor temperature while cooking, but is more efficient with large meal production. This will make cooking for long periods of time more enjoyable and lessen the harmful indoor air pollutants, allowing you and your family to enjoy your holiday without the risk of negative health effects.”
Scarr summed it up: “You can’t see the pollution from your gas stove, but it’s there. This guide pulls back the curtain on this hidden danger and gives Americans the tools they need to keep their families healthy and fully enjoy their holiday meals.”