U.S. not considering ban on gas stoves, safety agency confirms

Health experts are warning that gas, the most widely used cooking energy source in Illinois, emits chemicals that elevate risks of asthma, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

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The Consumer Protection Safety Commission has clarified that a ban on gas stoves is not currently in the works, despite concerns about air pollution and respiratory complications. Illinois is one of five states where gas stoves are used in more homes than electric stoves.

Photo illustration by Bob Campbell / The Fresno Bee

Gas stoves remained a hot topic at the Consumer Protection Safety Commission on Wednesday as agency leaders clarified that the government is not set to ban the appliances outright.

Bloomberg News was the first to report that a ban was on the table Monday. In an interview with Bloomberg, agency Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. called gas stoves a “hidden hazard.”

National and local news outlets continued to explore the effects of a potential ban, which would not impact stoves already installed in homes, until CPSC Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric weighed in Tuesday.

“CPSC has not proposed any regulatory action on gas stoves at this time,” the agency said in a statement to USA Today. “Any regulatory action by the commission would involve a lengthy process.”

Thirty-eight percent of United States households owned a gas stove as of 2020, according to data from the Energy Information Administration Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

Illinois is one of five states where more households use gas stoves than electric stoves.

The American Chemical Society has found that gas stoves emit nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other chemicals linked to asthma, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

According to one peer-reviewed study published last month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, gas stove use may be responsible for 12 percent of childhood asthma cases nationwide.

“In the United States, we have not actually paid attention to a lot of these factors that are associated with respiratory health impairment because we’ve been so singularly focused on cigarette smoke,” said Ravi Kalhan, a Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine professor, who teaches pulmonary and critical care medicine and researches the development of lung disease.

Studies on air pollutants have also focused on the outdoors, Kalhan said, including the risks of living near highways or factories. Indoor air quality gained more attention with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some manufacturers say that although no ban on gas stoves has been finalized, the CPSC’s recommendation takes decision-making power away from homeowners and businesses.

Mark Denzler, president and chief executive of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, said the proposed ban was “aspirational” given the comparatively low cost of gas.

“This is once again the government trying to choose for consumers what products they should buy,” Denzler said.

The CPSC has faced pressure from lawmakers in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives in recent months to consider limits on gas stoves.

In an August 2022 letter shared with MarketWatch, Democratic Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi wrote that the CPSC had been aware of the potential dangers of natural gas in stoves since a 1986 report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

A group including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Virginia Rep. Don Beyer followed up in December, pointing out that Black, Latino and low-income households disproportionately suffer the health effects of air pollution.

Kalhan is also worried about the long-term effects of exposure — particularly to nitrogen dioxide, which causes inflammation in the windpipe.

“If you spent your entire life living in a home with a gas stove that was poorly ventilated, are you at risk for worse lung function later in adult life?” Kalhan said. “That’s the kind of study we’re doing now.”

John and Mike Abt, co-chief executives of retailer Abt Electronics, say they don’t expect concerns around gas stoves to sway customers unless a federal ban does go through.

Nine out of 10 Abt customers buying new stoves tend to stick with whatever kind of energy their last stove used, John Abt said — and gas stoves remain popular in Chicago.

“Frankly, a customer, when they come into shop, they don’t really even know gas or electric,” John Abt said. “They say, ‘Well, which one’s better? What do you have now?’”

If a ban is approved, Mike Abt expects that sales of electric stoves will go up, as well as demand for home installations, which can cost up to $1,000, Mike Abt said.

For now, Kalhan recommends that residents with gas stoves keep their kitchen vents open, if ventilation leads directly outdoors. He also recommends using an air purifier, or opening windows near the kitchen if weather allows.

“I would rather cook on a gas stove every day, but certainly when we think about the public health consequences of it, mitigating these things is pretty important for society,” Kalhan said.

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