January 10, 2023 A Federal Safety Agency Says It Might Ban Gas Stoves, Citing Health Impacts

A gas stove lets off a blue flame inside a household kitchen in Barcelona. Credit: Davide Bonaldo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
A gas stove lets off a blue flame inside a household kitchen in Barcelona. Credit: Davide Bonaldo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A federal agency responsible for ensuring consumer products are safe says it plans to issue new regulations for natural gas stoves, including the possibility of a ban, as soon as this year, citing growing public health concerns. The move could improve the air quality in millions of homes and businesses nationwide and help reduce the country’s rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates anything from e-cigarettes to children’s toys, announced in an interview with Bloomberg that it was in the process of drafting a new rule for the appliance in response to a growing body of evidence that shows gas stoves emit harmful air pollutants at levels that can exceed federal safety standards and have been linked to respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other health problems.

The proposed rule, which is expected to open to public comment later this winter, could set new emissions standards for stoves, require manufacturers to put warning labels on their products, make the installation of ventilation hoods mandatory or even ban gas stoves from being produced or imported into the United States entirely, according to the commission.

“Any option is on the table,” Richard Trumka Jr., one of the agency’s commissioners, told Bloomberg this week. “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

About 40 percent of U.S. homes have gas stoves, which have been found to emit harmful pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter—sometimes at levels that exceed federal safety standards. And a peer-reviewed study published last month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health was the latest research to tie the burning of gas to increased asthma risk, finding that nearly 13 percent of U.S. childhood asthma cases can be attributed to the use of gas stoves.

Climate activists have also called for halting the use of natural gas to heat and power homes because of its impact on global warming. Burning natural gas not only emits carbon dioxide, but the gas itself—methane—is capable of warming the atmosphere 87 times more than CO2 over a 20-year period.

While it’s unclear just how strict the final proposal may ultimately be, it’s the latest signal that the movement to transition away from gas appliances for health and environmental reasons is gaining momentum at a national level. Last month, federal officials with the Department of Housing and Urban Development said they were considering a request from health and housing advocates to remove gas stoves from public housing units, my colleague Victoria St. Martin reported.

Already, nearly 100 cities and counties across four states—California, Colorado, New York and Washington—have adopted policies that restrict the use of gas appliances in buildings in some way. In 2021, New York City banned gas hookups in newly constructed buildings starting in 2027, following similar bans by other major cities such as San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. Maryland’s largest county voted last month to ban gas appliances in most new buildings, also beginning in 2027. And in September, California regulators voted to phase out the sale of gas-fired furnaces and water heaters in the state by 2030.

Advocates also hope to make New York the first state in the nation to adopt a similar ban—a possibility that could gain more traction this year as federal dollars from the Inflation Reduction Act begin flowing to electrification projects around the country.

Republican lawmakers and industry representatives, however, have pushed back against notions that gas stoves are unsafe and criticize efforts to phase the appliances out of buildings as government overreach. They also argue that banning natural gas stoves will lead to higher costs for homeowners and restaurants with little environmental improvement. Twenty states so far have passed preemptive legislation that would prevent cities or counties from restricting the use of gas appliances based on those arguments.

“Ventilation is really where this discussion should be, rather than banning one particular type of technology,” Jill Notini, a vice president at the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, told Bloomberg. “Banning one type of a cooking appliance is not going to address the concerns about overall indoor air quality. We may need some behavior change, we may need [people] to turn on their hoods when cooking.”

But most of those arguments don’t appear to align with the latest science. 

Renewable energy continues to plummet in price, with analysts projecting another record boom in clean energy development this year—a trend that can help reduce overall electricity costs. Studies from 2001 and 2015 suggest that gas stoves produce far more pollution, particularly nitrogen oxide, compared to electric ones. And a Stanford University study published last year found that gas stoves are leaking methane whether or not they’re even on, suggesting they’re contributing even more to climate change than previously believed.

“We’re systematically underestimating the climate impact of gas appliances,” Rob Jackson, an earth system science professor at Stanford University who helped lead the research, told my colleague Phil McKenna. “And we’re standing over stoves that are emitting pollutants that we breathe.”

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