A federal agency says a ban on gas stoves is on the table amid rising concerns about harmful indoor air pollutants emitted by the appliances.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission plans to take action to address pollution, which can cause health and respiratory problems.
“This is a hidden danger,” Richard Trumka Jr., an agency commissioner, said in an interview. “Every option is on the table. Products that cannot be made safe can be banned.”
Natural gas heaters, used in about 40% of homes in the U.S., emit air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter at levels that the EPA and the World Health Organization say are unsafe and linked to respiratory, cardiovascular and vascular disease. problems, cancer and other health problems, according to reports from groups such as the Institute for Policy Integrity and the American Chemical Society. Consumer Reportsin October urged consumers planning to buy a new range to consider going electric after tests carried out by the group found high levels of nitrogen oxide fumes from gas stoves.
New peer-reviewed research published last month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that more than 12% of current childhood asthma cases in the US can be attributed to gas stove use.
“There’s about 50 years of health studies showing that gas stoves are bad for our health, and the strongest evidence is in children and childhood asthma,” said Brady Seals, a manager in the carbon-free buildings program at the nonprofit Clean Energy. RMI and a co-author of the study. “By having a gas connection, we pollute the inside of our houses.”
The Bethesda, Maryland-based Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has about 500 employees, plans to issue public comments on the dangers of gas stoves later this winter. In addition to banning the manufacture or import of gas stoves, options include setting standards for the appliances’ emissions, Trumka said.
Lawmakers have weighed in and asked the committee to consider requiring warning labels, hoods and performance standards. In a letter to the bureau in December, lawmakers including Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Representative Don Beyer of Virginia, both Democrats, urged action, calling gas stove emissions a “cumulative burden” for black, Hispanic, and low-income households. low incomes who are disproportionately affected by air pollution.
Parallel efforts by state and local policymakers are focusing on the use of natural gas in buildings more broadly, in an effort to reduce climate-warming emissions (such as from methane) that exacerbate climate change. Nearly 100 cities and counties have adopted policies requiring or encouraging a shift away from fossil fuel buildings. The New York City Council voted in 2021 to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings less than seven stories by the end of this year. The California Air Resources Board voted unanimously in September to ban the sale of natural gas-fired furnaces and water heaters by 2030.
Consumers looking to switch from gas to electric stoves can get some help from the massive climate spending bill signed into law in August. The Inflation Reduction Act includes rebates of up to $840 for the purchase of new electric ranges as part of approximately $4.5 billion in financing to help low- and middle-income households electrify their homes.
The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, which includes gas stove manufacturers such as Whirlpool Corp. says that cooking produces emissions and harmful by-products, regardless of the type of stove used.
“Ventilation is really where this discussion should be, rather than banning a certain type of technology,” said Jill Notini, a vice president of the Washington-based trade group. “Banning one type of cooking appliance does not solve concerns about overall indoor air quality. Maybe we need some behavior change, maybe we need that [people] turn on their extractor hood while cooking.”
Natural gas distributors, whose business is threatened by the growing push to electrify homes, argue that a ban on natural gas stoves would drive up costs for homeowners and restaurants with little environmental gain. The American Gas Association, which represents utilities like Dominion Energy Inc. and DTE Energy Co. said in a statement that regulatory and advisory agencies responsible for protecting the health and safety of residential consumers have found no documented risks from gas stoves.
“The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and EPA do not present gas ranges in their technical or public information literature, guidelines or requirements as a significant contributor to adverse air quality or health hazards,” said Karen Harbert, the group’s president. “The most practical, realistic way to achieve a sustainable future where energy is clean, but also safe, reliable and affordable is to ensure that natural gas and the infrastructure that carries it are included.”
Republicans, meanwhile, criticized the possible move because the government is stretching too far.
“If the CPSC really wanted to do something about public health, it would ban cigarettes or cars long before it moved to stoves,” says Mike McKenna, a GOP energy lobbyist. “It’s transparently political.”
Trumka, who worked for a House committee before joining the committee in a role that worked on toxic heavy metals in baby foods and the health risks of e-cigarettes, said the committee could make its proposal as early as this year, although he admitted that would be “on the fast side”.
“There is a misconception that if you want to cook culinary, it has to be done with gas,” Trumka said. “It’s a carefully manicured myth.”
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