BAM Key Details:
- Richard Trumka Jr., a Consumer Product Safety commissioner, ignited a gas stove controversy by suggesting the CPSC should ban gas stoves
- According to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, indoor gas stove usage is linked with an increased risk of asthma in children.
A U.S. federal agency is considering an all-out ban on gas stoves, calling them out as a source of indoor pollution linked to the worsening or development of childhood asthma.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Richard Trumka, Jr., a US Consumer Product Safety commissioner, said gas stoves posed a “hidden hazard” and floated the possibility of the agency banning them.
The response was more or less predictable. Natural gas advocates immediately took issue with the idea, pointing to other issues or possible solutions.
Trumka has said, “everything’s on the table,” but stressed that any ban considered by the agency would only apply to new gas stoves—not existing ones. After months of considering action on gas stoves, Trumka recommended in October that the agency seek input from the public.
Gas stove usage linked to increased asthma risk
According to a December 2022 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, indoor gas stove usage is linked with an increased risk of current asthma in children.
The study found that nearly 13% of current childhood asthma in the United States can be attributed to gas stove usage.
According to Trumka, the CPSC plans to open public comment on the hazards of gas stove usage, and that the agency had yet to “coalesce” around a solution. At this point, it’s still gathering information and preparing to ask the public for their input on the issue.
Nobody knows how long that will take. But some are already plenty vocal about the possibility of a ban, however doubtful it seems that any real action will be taken.
Political differences on a divisive issue
After all, while one side of the issue sees the threat posed by gas stove usage and is motivated to protect the most vulnerable, there’s always another side that perceives more danger in the ban than in the original threat. Perspective is everything.
On Wednesday, like clockwork, the White House announced that President Joe Biden does not, in fact, support a ban on gas stoves. So, it looks like he and Joe Rogan have that in common.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington pointed out that Black, Latino, and low-income households are more likely to be adversely affected by natural gas emissions because they’re more likely to live near a waste incinerator or coal ash site—or in a home with poor ventilation.
Trumka responded, seeking perhaps to quell the fears of gas stove and natural gas advocates:
We are not looking to go into anyone’s homes and take away items that are already there. We don’t do that. If and when we get to regulation on the topic, it’s always forward looking. You know, it applies to new products. Consumers always have the choice of what to keep in their homes and we want to make sure they do that with full information.
He also pointed out that consumers who want to swap out their gas stoves for electric ones are eligible for a rebate of up to $840, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act—and up to $500 to help allay the costs of converting from gas to electric.
With rebates like that, one wonders how much it actually costs to get the job done—and how many households are left out in the cold when the rebate doesn’t cover quite enough.
We try to look at ways to make things safe. That is goal one. And if we can do that, that’s fantastic. But every option, if we fall short of that, is on the table.
States opposing bans on natural gas hookups
A full 35% of U.S. households use a gas stove. And that number approaches 70% in some states, including California and New Jersey.
According to other authoritative studies, these stoves emit significant levels of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and fine particulate matter. Without effective ventilation, these emissions can raise indoor concentration levels to an unsafe degree, according to EPA standards.
In a letter to chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric, a group of lawmakers said even short-term exposure to NO2 is linked to worsening asthma in children, while long-term exposure has been linked to the development of asthma and can also worsen cardiovascular illnesses.
Some U.S. cities have banned natural gas hookups in all new building construction to protect residents and reduce greenhouse emissions:
- Berkeley in 2019
- San Francisco in 2020
- New York City in 2021
But as of February 2022, 20 states with GOP-controlled legislatures pushed back by passing “preemption laws” that prohibit their cities from banning natural gas.
Improving air quality
The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers issued a statement to CNN Business saying an improvement in ventilation is the best solution to prevent indoor air pollution while cooking.
A ban on gas cooking appliances would remove an affordable and preferred technology used in more than 40% of home across the country. A ban of gas cooking would fail to address the overall concern of indoor air quality while cooking, because all forms of cooking, regardless of heat source, generate air pollutants, especially at high temperatures.
In a blog post, the American Gas Association also pushed back against a natural gas ban, saying it would make housing more expensive because “electric homes require expensive retrofits.”
To consumers concerned about gas stoves in their home, Trumka recommends they check to ensure the exhaust hood is vented to the outside—not being routed back into the home. Because he and his other CPSC peeps have been hearing some distressing rumors about people’s exhaust tubes not directing the exhaust in the proper direction (i.e., outside).
If the exhaust is not vented outside the home, Trumka recommends opening a window or turning on a fan to clear the air.
The CPSC issued a statement to CNN saying the agency has not yet proposed any regulatory action on gas stoves—and that, if and when they do, it would “involve a lengthy process.”
No one doubted that.
Agency staff plans to start gathering data and perspectives from the public on potential hazards associated with gas stoves, and proposed solutions to those hazards later this year. Commission staff also continue to work with voluntary standards organizations to examine gas stove emissions and address potential hazards.
Responses on social media
Gas stove advocates on Twitter have shared their thoughts with hashtags #SaveTheStove, #GasStoveBan, and #GasStovesMatter. And whatever side you’re on, there’s plenty of drama to be had on this and other platforms.
So, if your faith in humanity can withstand anything, scroll away, dear readers. I’m out.
What side of the gas stove controversy are you on?
Whatever your thoughts on the (remote) possibility of a ban on gas stoves, there’s always more than one perspective to consider—and more than one side striving to “do the right thing.”
Whatever your thoughts, if you’re serving clients who struggle with asthma or who have small children, it can’t hurt to at least make this information available to them. They can decide for themselves whether it’s worth it to pursue a home with a gas stove.
If your clients would not be able to afford the cost of replacing an outdated ventilation system in a house they’re considering, consider asking the seller to cover that cost as a concession.
Or consider reaching out to a fix-and-flip investor to take that on themselves.