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Study finds respiratory risks from the long-term use of gas or propane stoves

A new study by researchers from Stanford University’s School of Sustainability has found that gas and propane stoves could be a threat to consumers’ long-term health, as they may produce high levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2). 

For the study, researchers used sensors in over 100 homes to measure NO2 levels throughout the living spaces, tracking changes before, during, and after cooking. Using a model developed by the National Institutes for Standards and Technology, they estimated national averages of NO2 production and the realistic output from gas stoves.

The findings showed that gas stoves are a major source of NO2 production. Average use of a gas stove was linked to increases in NO2 exposure by around four parts per billion annually, which is 75% of the World Health Organization’s estimated unsafe indoor level.

The health implications are concerning. The researchers estimate that NO2 exposure from gas stoves may be responsible for approximately 50,000 cases of pediatric asthma each year. Additionally, they suggest that NO2 exposure could be linked to as many as 19,000 premature deaths, nearly half the number of deaths attributed to secondhand smoke.

To mitigate these risks, experts recommend maximising ventilation when using gas or propane stoves to limit the lingering NO2 levels in living spaces, even hours after cooking.

When commenting on the results of the study, one of the researchers, Rob Jackson, said: “I didn’t expect to see pollutant concentrations breach health benchmarks in bedrooms within an hour of gas stove use and stay there for hours after the stove is turned off. Pollution from gas and propane stoves isn’t just an issue for cooks or people in the kitchen. It’s the whole family’s problem. It’s the fuel, not the food. Electric stoves emit no nitrogen dioxide or benzene. If you own a gas or propane stove, you need to reduce pollutant exposures using ventilation.” 

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