Is Your Stove Giving You Cancer?

Is Your Stove Giving You Cancer? about undefined

If you’re a gas stove person, then you probably find it hard to cook on any other type of stove. The speed in which a gas stove reaches temperature, sometimes called “immediate temperature response” is the reason many people love their gas stove. And in a culture where immediate gratification is celebrated, the appeal makes sense.

But it’s not just that—gas stoves give you many more benefits. So, what’s not to love? As it turns out, plenty. Despite the charm and allure of this cooking behemoth, it may very well be poisoning both you and the planet. Sounds severe, so let’s review the facts…

Gas stoves date back to 1802 but didn’t become widespread in the U.S. or Europe until the 20th century. Part of that had to do with the large stove base and size getting smaller so it fit better with the rest of the typical furniture and appliances in the average kitchen.1 Since then, gas ranges have become a type of status symbol for chefs and home entertainers.2

When I say gas stove, I’m talking about any stove and oven that works with combustible fuel. In most cases, that’s natural gas. But it could also include propane, butane, or liquefied petroleum gas.3 For the purposes of this article, let’s zero in on the effects of natural gas.

Among the many benefits of gas stoves are more control over the heat level, allowing greater versatility when it comes to grilling, searing, or simmering. They’re easier to clean, cheaper to maintain, and work well with just about any type of pot or pan. They also give you the visceral satisfaction of cooking over a live flame.

Some describe this “romance” between gas stoves and the Americans who cook on them as a decades-long campaign (and a successful one) from utility companies who promote the message that cooking with gas makes you a better cook.4 At present, roughly a third of U.S. households (that’s 40 million homes) have gas-burning stoves.5

Here’s the rub…   

Or should I say, where the fossil fuel meets the flame: The estimated nationwide methane emissions from 40 million gas-burning stoves in use over the course of a year have the same global-warming potential as about 500,000 cars.6

Methane, which is the main component found in natural gas, holds over 80 times the global-warming potential of carbon dioxide for the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere.7 Methane is the second-largest contributor to climate change among greenhouse gases.8

The problem isn’t even limited to those minutes when a gas stove is in use. In a Stanford study, scientists determined that more than three-quarters of the methane emissions from these stoves occurs when they’re turned off, hinting those leaks into the air continue even when the appliance isn’t being used.9

The trade group known as the American Gas Association refutes these claims, publicly pointing out that total methane emissions from natural gas systems went down 16 percent between 1990 and 2019, and that residential natural gas makes up only a small amount of U.S. emissions.10 They’ve also made the argument that it can’t be that bad as the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have never taken action to limit the use of gas stoves.11

But if stoves are doing that much to pollute the environment, what’s happening to the people who live with a gas stove in their home?

Cooking with cancer-causing air pollutants   

In a study published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, Stanford scientists determined that gas stove appliances emit significant amounts of nitrogen dioxide, which is a pollutant that triggers asthma and other respiratory conditions.12 Natural gas also produces indoor particulate pollution.13

A different study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology tracked samples taken from 69 cooking stoves in the Boston area. Results showed those stoves had 21 different hazardous air pollutants, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and hexane.14 (Benzene is a known carcinogen and has been associated with lymphoma. Worse, it’s known to cause leukemia.) Benzene was found in 95 percent of samples.15

The Stanford team has urged homeowners to switch to all-electric stoves, water boilers, and other appliances if they have the financial means to do so—though at the same time, the natural gas industry has rolled up its sleeves for fights in New York and across the country as it pushes to keep those signature blue flames burning.16

What you can do  

If you’re in the market for a new stove, induction stoves are more energy-efficient than standard electric stoves and are considered as responsive as gas.17 But induction stoves are on the pricier end.

If you’re not in the market for a new stove, and let’s face it—few of us are eager to spend our money on replacing something that works perfectly fine—then at least take time to make sure your stove is properly ventilated, as that will improve your indoor air quality. Your range hood should ventilate to the outside and not recirculate or just filter the cooking fumes. A hood over the stove can also make a big difference as hoods are designed to filter out odors, smoke, grease, and other pollutants that get released into the air during the cooking process.18

We have natural gas in so many of our homes because we’ve been told that it’s clean. And while it may be cleaner than burning coal and oil,19 that doesn’t mean it’s completely without harm. Take time to make sure your setup is as safe as possible, and if you ever find yourself in the market for a new stove or oven, gas should be your last choice.

Best regards,

Lee Euler,



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