Childhood asthma study sparks heated debate about gas stoves

Gas stoves have come under renewed scrutiny after a recent study linked them to 13 percent of childhood asthma.

In response to the study, a spokesman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said the agency may consider a complete ban on gas stoves. But this idea was later shot downcommission chairman.

Ari NutterBloomberg energy and environment reporter, spoke to the Texas Standard about gas stove regulation options and how the issue has become a political topic of discussion.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:

Texas Standard: People have been sounding the alarm about the risks associated with gas stoves for some time now. But recently you have reported startling discoveries about gas stoves and childhood asthma. Could you elaborate on this?

Ari Nutter: Right. For decades, there have been reports of gas stoves sounding the alarm. The latest reports, released in December, linked gas stoves to 12% of asthma cases in children. Appliances are a concern for emissions of nitric oxide, as well as carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and even methane.

You spoke with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. What did they have to say about it?

Right. I had an interview with one of the commissioners of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Richard Trumka, who said that the agency was considering banning, among other things, the health effects of gas stoves. This caused something like a firestorm; in the last 24 hours we have seen how the chairman of the commission reacted to these comments and said that they are not going to ban gas stoves; they are just looking for ways to make them safer.

Do you believe that they are not considering a ban, especially considering that Trumka immediately said: “Yes, we are thinking about a ban.”

Well, Trumka may have gotten a little carried away in his comments. I mean, the commission chairman says they’re not going to do that. What they are doing is accepting public comments which, in addition to the ban, will inform possible rules. Other regulations may include gas emission standards, warning labels, and even the mandatory use of hoods to vent vapors.

These appliances, however, have been a part of kitchens for as long as anyone can remember, obviously. Could this be the death knell for this part of the industry? I’m not just talking about household appliances, we’re also talking about the demand for natural gas. It can have a snowball effect, I think – what do you think?

This is true, especially when you consider that parallel efforts are being made across the country to ban natural gas more widely due to climate concerns. Methane pollution associated with natural gas, a potent greenhouse pollutant, is a concern. And we’ve seen cities and even some states completely ban natural gas.

Well, given that the Consumer Product Safety Commission was quick to say “no, we’re not going to ban gas stoves” on Wednesday – they did react quickly and harshly, I think it’s safe to say. They must be getting a lot of pushback from the industry.

Yes, they definitely are. They are being rebuffed by the industry as well as some of their allies in Congress. We’ve seen members of Congress calling for more oversight; Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, for example, said that if they were to advance these rules, then the commission itself should be reassessed. I’m not sure if it has that kind of power, but still quite a powerful message.

You tell a lot of stories about the environment – why do you think it really hit a nerve, it seems?

Well, I mean, I think it’s a symbol of abuse of power, right? I mean, kind of like the Green New Deal, where people think the government is going to come into their house and break their oven, you know, which of course isn’t going to happen. Any kind of ban will apply to the manufacturer or importer of stoves. But I mean, it offended people a little, and it became obvious to me that they really like their gas stoves. I mean, they’re just against electric cooking for some reason.

Do you think it will disappear pretty quickly, or do you think it will be with us for a while?

This is a good question. I was surprised by the gas stove news cycle, if you will, when the chairman of the commission stated that they were not going to ban stoves. I think he might die, but we’ll see what they actually do later this spring.

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