For decades, gas cooking has been a convenient, efficient and inexpensive way to prepare meals for families around the world. However, recent research suggests that this popular cooking method could pose serious health risks, especially for the development of the immune system of young children. Is there a connection between asthma symptoms in children and the use of gas cooking at home? In this article, we examine the evidence behind this controversial claim.
A recent report confirmed that the link between gas stove use and childhood asthma is true. According to the report, 12% of asthma cases in children in the European Union are linked to the use of a gas cooker. This confirms two previous studies that highlighted the impact of gas cooking on asthma in children.
What are the potential causes of this hazard?
This is a problem for several reasons. First, cooking is a daily activity and cooking with gas is common in homes. Second, cooking is normally done indoors, where irritants from gas cooking can build up, especially in the winter when we keep our doors and windows closed. Finally, this is an issue that has received little coverage outside of academic circles, so most people are still unaware of the risks gas cooking can present.
How can burning gas cause asthma?
Cooking with gas releases chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde, which can cause airway inflammation and worsen asthma symptoms.
And even worse! even when switched off, the gas cooker lets out certain dangerous substances.
In October 2022, a US study published its findings that a gas stove – even when turned off – could release air pollutants known to negatively impact human health. The study indicates that stove emissions include benzene, which is a known carcinogen and can promote the development of leukaemia.
Research has found that these emissions can occur when the stovetop burner is off but the pilot light is still on, or when the burners are simply not cleaned for long periods of time. The researchers studied different levels of exposure and concentration, but concluded that any exposure to benzene, regardless of the level, can have dangerous effects. Benzene exposure has been linked to an increased risk of myeloid leukemias such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML), as well as certain lymphomas.
Besides asthma and leukemia, other side effects are surfacing.
According to a press release from the association Respire, the negative effects of pollutants emitted by gas cooking go far beyond its impact on asthma. Recent studies have shown that these pollutants are harmful to adults, impacting not only their respiratory and nervous systems, but also their brains. The results of these studies remain tentative for now, and gas lobbies in the United States – where 35% of households cook with gas – have dismissed them as “a pure mathematical exercise in advocacy, with nothing new in the science. “.
However, it seems that more concrete conclusions could soon be drawn. Respire chief executive Tony Renucci has announced plans for a study due to begin in the summer of 2023 that will include measurements carried out in 40 homes across France in real-life scenarios. This type of experiment should provide much-awaited answers on the harmful effects of cooking with gas.
To ensure reliable results, these experiments will not only measure levels of carbon monoxide, but also levels of nitrogen dioxide and other volatile compounds commonly found in various home environments. As this is a long-term study, Renucci estimates that the results should be available by mid to late 2024 at the latest.
The findings of this study could have major implications for public health in the future. It is essential that this research continues so that people around the world can make informed decisions about how they cook and heat their homes without putting their health at risk.
Measures to reduce exposure.
There are a series of simple steps you can take to reduce the effect of gas stoves on your child’s asthma symptoms. These measures include:
- The use of a range hood when cooking, noting that high efficiency range hoods that are vented to the outside are better than those that only recirculate air.
- Open windows during and after cooking. This is especially true if your home does not have a range hood.
- Opening windows on opposite sides of the kitchen can help remove pollutants faster.
It is important to recognize that better ventilation plays an important role in reducing exposure to benzene and other irritants from gas stoves. It is also useful for households to regularly maintain their gas stoves and clean the burners to reduce emissions.