February 03, 2023

Put this on the back burner

Maybe my longstanding joke is more of health threat.

I grew up with a dad who only grilled with charcoal. Since that was the only thing I experienced, I did the same as I have had charcoal grills as an adult. I do have friends who cook with a gas grill and have not had anything bad because of the cooking method. But I keep telling them, “If you are going to cook with gas, you might as well just drag your kitchen stove outside.”

While we were probably finishing our Christmas Day dinner leftovers using our stoves, this news broke. Richard Trumka Jr., one of the four commissioners of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), said the U.S. agency was considering a ban on gas stoves — or, at least, standards around the amount of toxic fumes such stoves can spew into Americans’ kitchens, " according to the Washington Post.

The Post continued stating the commission’s chair said it would not ban gas stoves, but was researching health risks of gas stoves and possible increases to safety standards.

According to the Post, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York — have already started the process to ban gas stoves in certain new homes and apartments.

Kathy Hochul (D), the governor of New York, has also proposed banning gas hookups, including for gas stoves, in new buildings in the entire state.

All cooking creates some form of air pollution. But gas stoves are burning natural gas, a mix of methane and other elements. When a gas stove is on, it releases fine pieces of particulate matter that can get into our lungs, but also nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Those elements have been connected to health risks.

Scientists have identified nitrogen dioxide, for example, as contributing to childhood onset of asthma and worsening asthma symptoms. Scientists from the clean energy think tank RMI estimated in a peer-reviewed study 12.7% of childhood asthmas could be because of living in a household with a gas stove. Some scientists have compared the risks of gas stove use to having a smoker in the home.

Gas-powered stoves have been around for decades. Will we ever know if our ailments can be pinpointed back to gas stoves? There have been so many studies over what makes us, or could make us, or maybe have made us, or will make us, sick. Those gas stoves is just a new chapter in the book. I have an electric stove and have had one for many years. I had a gas stove in a rental house before marriage. I never had a problem.

The Environmental Protection Agency can’t regulate indoor air quality, and homes with gas stoves can often have nitrogen dioxide levels far in excess of EPA outdoor guidelines.

Trumka also clarified on Twitter regulations would apply to new products, not exisiting ones in homes. “CPSC isn’t coming for anyone’s gas stoves,” he wrote.

The American Gas Association questioned the research on natural-gas cooking and asthma. “Any efforts to ban highly efficient natural gas stoves should raise alarm bells for the 187 million Americans who depend on this essential fuel every day,” they put in a statement.

Those who question the study speculate it may be part of President Biden’s intentional push for a more, or all-electric, society to prevent further climate change as he has pushed electric vehicles rather hard. Those stove emissions also are linked to add to climate change. I can see why critics think that. It’s also another sad state of affairs how we are even politicizing household appliances. Nothing seems to be off limits anymore.

I’m hoping all involved will know what their limits are. The same elements emitted from natural-gas stoves are the same ones from natural-gas residential furnaces. Will someone next imply we should shut off our furnaces?

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.