For Emma Hines, the recent debate about the dangers of gas stoves is reminiscent of the international debate about cigarette smoke in the 1960s.
After the release of several studies warning of the health harm of nicotine ten years earlier, a report by the US Surgeon General in 1964 gave new impetus to a topic that was discussed among researchers – the relationship between cigarette smoke and diseases such as lung cancer . .
“I benefit every day from research and advocacy in the past and over the past few decades that have dramatically reduced tobacco use,” said Hines, a member of the American Public Health Association, who added that he was born at the hospital. 1990s. “As more and more evidence mounts on the health effects of gas stoves, I expect that future generations will have a similar story.”
While it’s too early to say whether cooking on gas stoves will one day become a way to smoke on airplanes, environmentalists, researchers and others say what has happened in recent weeks shows that the debate on the device has changed.
Numerous studies from research organizations have shown that gas stoves emit harmful pollutants, even when they are not in use. The gas industry, which has long denied the scientists’ concerns about the stoves, has launched its own scandals to destroy the latest findings.
In the latest development, the American Public Health Association released a statement on January 18 calling on the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the link between stove gas, nitrogen oxide. (or NO₂) pollution and the risk of disease in children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
Hines, who is a health & climate director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, was the lead author of the report.
“Many high-quality scientific studies have shown that NO₂ concentrations are high in homes that use gas stoves and that cooking with gas stoves without adequate ventilation can result in indoor NO₂ emissions that are above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) air standards. ) ,” said the organization.
In the statement, members said “although federal laws regulate outdoor air in the United States, there are no guidelines for indoor air quality, and few state or local laws regulate indoor air pollution.”
“Those who live in small, old, poorly ventilated buildings are at greater risk of indoor air pollution from a variety of sources, leading to a higher risk of disease among low-income and people of color,” he said.
In response to his comments, the head of the American Gas Association said “there appears to be an unproven relationship between cooking with gas and public health concerns.”
“The proposed statement, which would require public health representatives to act based on a flawed and incomplete analysis of the available scientific literature, does not appear to meet APHA’s mission of supporting science-based policy,” said Karen Harbert, President of America. Gas Association, he said in a letter to the APHA chief.
The American Gas Association recently issued a statement opposing a new study on gas stoves. An RMI study found that 12.7 percent of current childhood asthma cases nationwide are caused by the use of gas stoves. The authors of the peer-reviewed study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health on Dec. 21, said that the findings were similar to the severity of childhood asthma due to smoking.
Gas stoves are in about 35 percent of homes in the US, according to the report.
“There have been a total of seven studies conducted to determine whether there is an association between asthma and gas since 2013,” said a spokesperson for the American Gas Association in a statement. “Five of the seven found no significant association between the gas stove and asthma.”
Earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering banning the gas stove. Then the head of the organization issued a statement saying that this was not the case.
“In the past few days, there has been a lot of attention on the gas stove release and on the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” wrote Alexander Hoehn-Saric, chairman of the commission. “Studies show that gas stove emissions can be dangerous, and the CPSC is looking at ways to reduce the dangers of indoor air. But to be clear, I don’t want to ban the gas stove and the CPSC is not going to do that.”
Despite the words of Hoehn-Saric, politicians began to fight against the gas stove, which became part of the cultural wars. Conservative lawmakers seized on the issue, and Fox News announced: “Biden is coming to get your gas stoves.” A White House spokesman responded that, no, President Biden does not want to ban the gas stove.
Although it has been decades since the mass production of gas stoves changed dramatically, rethinking the use of this device has become a priority for environmentalists.
“Good or bad, this kind of politics has created this issue, which we have known for 50 years but it was not well known, which I think millions of people know now, which for me is like a great success; “said Brady Seals, one of the authors of the study of RMI. “I think the worst thing is that people don’t know about it. And I mean, maybe I’m optimistic, but I think a lot of people are smart and they’re not building their own stoves or thinking that the government is going to come and take away your gas stoves because, that’s not going to happen. But they’re thinking and they are keeping an eye on their gas stove at home.”
Lisa Patel, deputy executive director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health and a pediatrician, said it’s unfortunate any time politics gets mixed up in science.
“I think it’s a shame because when we step back and ask ourselves, ‘What is really important?’ Health is important. Children’s health is important,” he said. “And it’s sad to me that in all the political noise, we don’t forget.”
“What’s coming is making sure we’re living in healthy homes where people are breathing clean air.”
Patel said there are three pollutants from gas stoves that are of concern: particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. And while there are health concerns associated with pollution – including asthma, heart disease and cancer – researchers say there are also concerns about climate change: a 2022 study estimates that emissions from gas stoves emit as much benzene annually as about 60,000 cars.
Robert Dubrow, professor of epidemiology and director of the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health, Environmental Health Sciences, said gas stoves are important for health and climate.
“Even if climate change didn’t happen, it wasn’t a problem, for health reasons alone, we should get rid of gas stoves,” Dubrow said.
“We need to gather more information,” he added. “And I think what these demonstrations would have continued to do was to say, ‘Yes, this is harmful to health.’
Patel said that the issue of gas stoves was a bit of a self-defence and some people refused because people did not want to believe that what they have had in their homes all this time could harm their health. But he hopes that in time people will see the evidence.
“We know what the evidence says about this gas stove – there’s no denying it,” he said. “I think it’s just going to take some time for it to become known to people after the ideas are over, so that they can apply a scientific lens to the problem.”
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Patel said that as more people switch to induction cookers and it feels familiar — like the laws changed and people stopped smoking indoors — “it will become familiar to people and the feeling will go away.”
In the press release of Jan. 13, a spokesperson for the American Gas Association said that the RMI report “was supported by non-governmental organizations working to advance their goals to remove the power choice of consumers and the choice of gas, it is not only promoting bad science. .”
The release also stated that “organizations making these claims are relying on reports that did not test the gas stove and have ignored studies that have not found an association between the gas stove and asthma.”
Patel said “that’s what the tobacco industry tells us, right? It was also what the sugar industry was telling us. They want to sell something so their business is at risk, so they will say whatever they want to keep selling their business. “
He added: “It’s good. I have come to protect the health of children. So my message is very different.”