Gas stoves are bad for the environment even when turned off

key takeaways

  • Stanford researchers find that gas stoves and ovens emit methane even when they are not used
  • When a gas stove is turned on, levels of nitrogen oxides, an air pollutant that can be harmful to health, can exceed safe outdoor exposure limits within minutes.
  • Kitchen vents can help reduce NOx exposure, especially in smaller homes, but it’s not a perfect solution.

According to a new study published by Stanford University, the amount of methane released into homes by gas stoves is linked to levels of air pollutants.

Researchers measure methane emissions from 53 California homes and find greenhouse gas leaks even when gas stoves, ovens and broilers are turned off

According to the study, the methane leakage from all stoves in the United States could be the same as the annual carbon dioxide emissions from 500,000 cars in 20 years. Over the course of 20 years, methane is 86 times more potent warming than carbon dioxide.

when gas stove is using, Methane is converted to carbon dioxide and remains in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years. But it only takes about a decade for methane to break down. This means that reducing methane emissions could help curb global warming in the near future.

Dr. Eric Lebel, the study’s lead author and a senior scientist at PSE Healthy Energy, initially focused on methane emissions from storage and tankless water heaters, before moving on to kitchen appliances.

“Stoves are directly in people’s homes. They don’t need vents like other appliances,” Lebel told VigorTip.

NOx exposure from gas stoves

The researchers also measured nitrogen oxides, a group of gases that can be toxic, especially in people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic nitrogen oxide exposure may also increase the risk of permanent lung disease or other respiratory infections in children.

The researchers found that, unlike methane emissions, nitrogen oxide levels were directly proportional to stove use. The size, strength and number of gas burners all result in higher NOx output, Lebel said.

The United States has not yet set exposure standards for indoor air pollution, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set limits for nitrogen dioxide outdoors. As of 2018, the EPA’s one-hour outdoor exposure limit for NO2 is 100ppb.

The study shows that poorly ventilated homes can exceed safe limits within minutes of using a stove, especially in smaller kitchens.

A Safer Way to Use a Gas Stove

Lebel recommends limiting NOx concentrations (if any) by opening vents, otherwise opening windows or turning on fans will also help.

However, Lebel explained that other studies have shown that the effectiveness of kitchen hoods varies. For example, exhaust fans are not as effective at controlling pollutants as fume hoods.

“Vents don’t necessarily fully solve the problem,” Lebel said. “We need to develop better ventilation standards to accommodate these emission rates from stoves.”

Because of COVID-19 precautions, researchers were unable to take nitrogen oxide readings from many of the smaller multifamily dwellings to conduct the study. But overall, higher emissions were reported in more compact kitchens.

“People in low-income neighborhoods often have smaller kitchens and lower-quality ventilation systems,” Dr. Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University and co-author of the study, told VigorTip.

While effective vents can reduce the risk of nitrogen oxide exposure, they don’t really reduce methane emissions. The methane levels reported in this study do not threaten health, but they do affect the environment, Lebel said.

“We systematically underestimate the climate impact of gas appliances,” Jackson said. “We found that furnaces emit much more methane than the EPA estimated, up to 1.3 percent of the gas they consume.”

Switching to electric furnaces can eliminate these methane emissions. Some cities, such as Seattle, San Jose and New York, have even begun banning the use of natural gas in new buildings in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from stoves and heating installations.

The switch to cleaner electricity is an important step in addressing the current climate crisis, and the U.S. is moving in that direction, Lebel said.Gas stoves are related issues climate and healthhe added.

“It’s really not just a conversation about one or the other, but a conversation about both at the same time,” Lebel said.

what does this mean to you

The methane emissions recorded in this study were generally low enough to not cause fires or affect health. Try opening the vents to reduce nitrogen oxide levels when cooking on a gas stove.