Anyone who cooks with gas appreciates the advantages: a direct fire, temperature and flame can be flexibly controlled, no special pots are required like with induction cookers. Cooking with gas is also cheaper than cooking with electricity.

Nevertheless, gas stoves are always discussed. They are to be banned in most new buildings in New York from 2026. The primary aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But gas stoves also pose health risks, as researchers at Stanford University now write in “Science Advances”.

In particular, the so-called nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is of concern to researchers in the most recent publication. This is produced on a large scale as a by-product of combustion processes, for example in industrial plants, power plants and heating systems. However, the main source is road traffic.

NO2 is also produced when cooking with gas, and nitrogen oxide pollution is not just limited to the kitchen, warn researchers at Stanford University.

“I didn’t expect bedroom pollutant levels to exceed health guidelines within an hour of using the gas stove, nor to remain so high hours after the stove was turned off,” says Rob Jackson, a professor at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability . He is one of the lead authors of the study.

Exposure to gas and propane stoves is therefore not just a problem for cooks or people in the kitchen, he says. “It’s a problem for the whole family.”

Nitrogen dioxide is a corrosive irritant gas that damages the mucous membrane tissue throughout the respiratory tract, especially in the bronchi and alveoli. Shortness of breath, cough or bronchitis can result. The consequences also include an increasing susceptibility to respiratory infections or reduced lung function.

In particular, people with existing respiratory diseases (asthmatics, patients with chronic bronchitis), heart patients and children, whose development of lung function may be impaired, are considered a risk group.

This is exactly what the authors of the studies warn about. They estimate that the mix of pollutants emitted by gas and propane stoves could be responsible for up to 200,000 current cases of asthma in children in the United States alone. It is said that a quarter of this can be attributed to nitrogen dioxide alone.

They also expect 19,000 deaths per year due to long-term NO2 pollution in the household. For comparison, this represents 40 percent of deaths associated with secondhand smoke in the United States each year.

But at the same time, the research team also emphasizes that this is only an estimate. This is because repeated exposure to extremely high levels of nitrogen dioxide in short bursts, as occurs when using gas stoves, is not taken into account.

In addition, the calculation is based on previous studies on the health effects of nitrogen dioxide outdoors, where other pollutants from vehicles and power plants are also present.

The research team from Stanford has already published several studies on gas stoves. The previous studies looked at how much gas stoves emit methane and the cancer-causing benzene. The latest study is another piece of the puzzle that helps understand the impact of gas stove emissions on human health.

This time, the researchers examined how strongly the pollutants spread, accumulate and finally break down again in an apartment. The size of the apartment played a measurable role.

The new results also confirm that foods release little or no nitrogen dioxide when cooked and that electric stoves do not produce NO2. “It’s the fuel, not the food,” Jackson said.

The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) writes, “Cooking and baking with gas stoves […] in the apartment can cause high levels of NO2 for a short time, but this quickly drops again depending on the ventilation of the rooms.” The UBA conclusion: When When installing a gas stove, an extractor hood with an exhaust air duct to the outside should be taken into account in the planning.

The Stanford researchers also recommend using an extractor hood if it is available. And regular ventilation, which reduces pollution.


Quantifying U.S. health impacts from gas stoves

UBA: Nitrogen dioxide in indoor spaces: Current state of knowledge

Combustion from gas stoves can raise indoor levels of benzene, a chemical linked to a higher risk of blood cell cancers

Gas stoves leak unburned methane continuously and produce NOx gasses while on

Autor: Hannah Fuchs

The original for this article “Gas stoves are “a problem for the whole family” – which is strongly advised” comes from Deutsche Welle.