Consumer Program Director, MASSPIRG Education Fund
Consumer Program Director, MASSPIRG Education Fund
Mothers Out Front
Massachusetts Sierra Club
State Director, Environment Massachusetts
New survey finds retailers share little or inaccurate information on gas stove health risks, need for ventilation, induction cooking demo
BOSTON — Although growing evidence shows that gas stoves fill kitchens and homes with hazardous air pollution, MASSPIRG Education Fund and Sierra Club released a new report that found major retailers were largely failing to warn potential customers of gas stove health concerns – and safety measures that could protect their health. In a survey conducted across 10 states, nearly three-quarters of survey takers were told that gas stove pollution was not a concern, and more than six in 10 were told that ventilation was unnecessary to protect health.
Advocates from Mothers Out Front, Environment Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, and Sierra Club released the new findings at the Robbins Library in Arlington where they highlighted the environmental and public health risks associated with gas stoves; demonstrated how induction cooking works; showcased a new library program that lends induction cooktops; and provided tips for reducing harm and cooking safely as Americans gather for the holidays.
“Our report clearly shows most shoppers aren’t getting information on what they need to do to protect their health when purchasing a gas stove,” said Deirdre Cummings, consumer program director at MASSPIRG Education Fund. “In lieu of action by federal agencies to protect public health from gas stove pollution there is a clear opportunity- and necessity – for consumer education at the point of sale.”
The health risks of gas stove pollution have long been recognized. In 1982, Consumer Reports noted that “children from gas-stove homes have a greater incidence of respiratory illness and impaired lung function than those from homes with electric stoves.” Nearly 40 years ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if it should be concerned about the impact of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emitted from gas stoves. The EPA responded that the pollutant could have harmful health effects, and CPSC should investigate the concentrations of NO2 occurring in America’s kitchens. But these federal agencies – tasked with protecting consumers and public health – have yet to act, leaving consumers largely unaware of risks of cooking with gas-burning stoves and ovens and what they can do to safeguard themselves and their families.
For the “Gas Stoves and Your Health: Consumers aren’t being told about the potential health risks of cooking with gas” report, survey takers entered 38 Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy retail locations and asked sales team representatives questions about gas and electric stoves and other appliances. Following the conversations, the shoppers filled out surveys to record the information that was provided by sales associates on gas stove pollution, exhaust hoods and electric cooking alternatives, and also reported on showroom displays, signage and online. Key findings from the report include:
- When asked, nearly three-quarters (74%) of store associates shared there were no concerns, or they were not aware of any details about gas stove pollution and health risks.
- When asked if an externally venting range hood was needed when buying a gas stove, more than six in 10 (65%) said it was not necessary.
- While 74% of sales associates were knowledgeable about how induction works, 13.5% of sales associates recommended gas over induction.
“The evidence is mounting that burning gas in our homes is bad for our health and for our climate,” said Ann Boland, Arlington Chapter of Mothers Out Front. “Retailers should inform customers, especially parents, about the dangers of gas stoves, particularly to young children. While not everyone can replace their gas stove, there are steps everyone can take to reduce harm, such as using a fan or opening a window.”
The report comes on the heels of studies finding gas stoves continually leak methane and other hazardous pollutants such as benzene into homes – even when off. While cooking, gas stoves fill homes with pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) within minutes, reaching levels which exceed outdoor health protective standards. Among other health impacts, children who live in homes with gas stoves have a 42% higher risk of developing asthma symptoms and 24% increased risk of being diagnosed with asthma.
“We know that cooking with gas is dangerous for our health, and increases risk of respiratory diseases such as asthma,” said Michele Brooks, Boston Lead Organizer with Massachusetts Sierra Club. “We also know that children, elderly people, low-income, and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by these health conditions. It is critical that we prioritize socially vulnerable and environmental justice communities in our efforts to make the switch to electric cooking. State and federal incentives for upgrades, as well as induction cooktop lending programs must be focused on in these communities.”
The American Medical Association passed a resolution recommending external ventilation for gas cooking as well as a reduction in gas cooking overall and incentives to encourage the equitable adoption of electric cooking alternatives.
Currently, there is a $500 rebate for converting from a gas to electric stove through Mass Save and in 2023 the Inflation Reduction Act will provide low- and moderate-income households significant incentives to upgrade to induction ranges, including the appliance, electric panel upgrades and wiring. Despite this, the report showed almost one in five stores didn’t have induction ranges on the showroom floor, and a quarter of store associates were not knowledgeable about how induction works.
“Replacing gas stoves with electric models is the right thing to do for our health, and it’s going to help achieve our climate goals, too,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts. “Induction stoves are a key tool in the transition to all-electric, fossil-fuel-free homes. With federal and state incentives available, retailers should do more to make their customers aware of the opportunity to switch to electric stoves.”
More information about reducing risk when cooking with gas can be found here. And information about libraries that lend induction cooktops can be found here.