MASSPIRG warns about gas stove dangers ahead of holidays

LONGMEADOW, Mass. — When Matt Casale moved into his new house last summer, the first thing he did was replace the old gas stove in his kitchen with an electric one.

“There was just no question, this was one of the first things we bought,” Casale said standing beside his induction stove. “I don’t miss the smell of the gas at all.”

As director of Environmental Campaigns for the non-profit consumer watchdog U.S. Public Information Research Group, Casale paid close attention to some of the hidden dangers that can come from gas stovetops. Researchers say cooking with gas even for short periods of time can create unhealthy levels of toxic gases, like nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, air pollution from gas combustion; including gas stoves, boilers and furnaces increase the risk for asthma and exacerbate COPD and cardiovascular disease. In 2017 the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health determined gas ovens are the number one environmental trigger for childhood asthma.

“It’s not commonly known how significant of a problem it could be,” Casale said. “Every time you turn on the stove it’s releasing these pollutants into your home but there’s nothing on the stove that would tell you that.”

U.S. PIRG released a cooking safety guide last month with ways to avoid unhealthy air pollution from gas ovens.

Newton Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Brita Lundberg co-authored the NEJM study in Jan. 2020. She said the key to gas stovetop cooking is using proper ventilation to draw the fumes up and out of your home.

“If their ventilation system really does not ventilation outside I would make an investment to make that happen,” Dr. Lundberg said.

Dr. Lundberg said no matter what, everybody should use their fan when they cook, even if they think the fan is too loud or annoying.

“My worry is it does bother people. Most of us don’t use that fan. But maybe we should,” she said.

Yale Appliance Resident Chef Saba Duffy said not only should cooks use the vent every time they ignite a burner, they should also get in the habit of turning on the fan before cooking to create an airflow.

“Using ventilation is 100 percent necessary when you’re using a gas stove, cooktop or range top,” Duffy said. “If you’re using gas and you’re going to be searing or any high-temperature cooking, there’s going to be a lot of splatters and a lot of gas emissions, you do have to have that hood on to get the air out.”