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The US Consumer Product Safety Commission will move to regulate gas stoves as new research links them to childhood asthma. 

ByAri Natter

January 9, 2023 at 5:00 AM MST

A federal agency says a ban on gas stoves is on the table amid rising concern about harmful indoor air pollutants emitted by the appliances. 

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission plans to take action to address the pollution, which can cause health and respiratory problems. 

“This is a hidden hazard,” Richard Trumka Jr., an agency commissioner, said in an interview. “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” 

Natural gas stoves, which are used in about 40% of homes in the US, emit air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter at levels the EPA and World Health Organization have said are unsafe and linked to respiratory illness, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and other health conditions, according to reports by groups such as the Institute for Policy Integrity and the American Chemical Society. Consumer Reports, in October, urged consumers planning to buy a new range to consider going electric after tests conducted by the group found high levels of nitrogen oxide gases 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 is about 50 years of health studies showing that gas stoves are bad for our health, and the strongest evidence is on children and children’s asthma,” said Brady Seals, a manager in the carbon-free buildings program  at the nonprofit clean energy group RMI and a co-author of the study. “By having a gas connection, we are polluting the insides of our homes.”

The Bethesda, Maryland-based Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has a staff of roughly 500, plans to open public comment on hazards posed by gas stoves later this winter. Besides barring the manufacture or import of gas stoves, options include setting standards on emissions from the appliances, Trumka said. 

Lawmakers have weighed in, asking the commission to consider requiring warning labels, range hoods and performance standards. In a letter to the agency in December, lawmakers including Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Representative Don Beyer of Virginia, both Democrats, urged action and called gas-stove emissions a “cumulative burden” on Black, Latino and low-income households that disproportionately experience air pollution. 

Parallel efforts by state and local policymakers are targeting the use of natural gas in buildings more broadly, in a push to reduce climate-warming emissions (such as from methane) that exacerbate climate change. Nearly 100 cities and counties have adopted policies that require or encourage a move away from fossil fuel powered buildings. The New York City Council voted in 2021 to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings smaller than seven stories by the end of this year. The California Air Resources Board unanimously voted in September to ban the sale of natural gas-fired furnaces and water heaters by 2030. 

 

Read: Biden Seeks Fossil Fuel-Free Federal Buildings in Hit to Gas 

Consumers who want to switch from gas to electric ranges could 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 some $4.5 billion in funding to help low- and moderate-income households electrify their homes. 

 

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, which represents gas range manufacturers such as Whirlpool Corp., says that cooking produces emissions and harmful byproducts no matter what kind of stove is used. 

“Ventilation is really where this discussion should be, rather than banning one particular type of technology,” said Jill Notini, a vice president with the Washington-based trade group. “Banning one type of a cooking appliance is not going to address the concerns about overall indoor air quality. We may need some behavior change, we may need [people] to turn on their hoods when cooking.” 

 

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