Ask a Pediatrician: Is My Gas Stove Making My Kids Sick?
New evidence-based medical information is always a good thing. The more science we know, the better health choices we can make for ourselves and our family. Recently, the topic of gas stoves and the dangers they pose prompted many parents to worry about the air quality in their home and the respiratory health of their families. Below is my take on the subject, viewed through the lens of a pediatrician, a mom and a gas stove owner.
Are gas stoves dangerous? Yes—in the same way that the cars we drive, the pools we swim in, and the dressers we (hopefully) secure to our walls are. They’re all everyday hazards that call for awareness and precaution. The dangers of NOx and benzene, toxic gases emitted when burning stovetop fuel, have been known for years. Recent studies have suggested that gas stoves are producing more harmful chemicals than previously believed, and we should be aware of this. This analysis published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health estimated that 12.7 percent of current childhood asthma in the U.S. can be attributed to gas stove use. But association does not always equal causation, and so further research is needed to determine more precise risk, especially for children with asthma. That being said, there are things you can do to decrease the exposure in your home.
Take Reasonable Precautions
Proper ventilation is beneficial for many aspects of health, but it is especially important in homes with gas stoves in order to dilute the nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide produced throughout the cooking process. When cooking, make sure to turn on the exhaust, even if you’re boiling water or making something that’s not smelly. If possible, open a window or set up a fan close by.
2. Use an air filter
Air filters or purifiers significantly reduce harmful toxins, bacteria and viruses in the air, so you would be killing multiple birds with one stone. There are many environmental sources of pollutants that can trigger asthma and related illness—why not take care of as many as possible with one machine?
3. Check your detectors
Make sure that your carbon monoxide and/or gas leak detectors are functional and get in the habit of checking them regularly. Even though natural gas is odorized for safety, you might not be able to detect it with just your nose if there’s a leak.
4. Cook consciously
Consider seeking alternatives to stove cooking for some nights of the week. Look into electric appliances to replace the range when possible, such as microwaves, slow cookers, air fryers and toaster ovens.
Keeping your eyes and ears open to new scientific discoveries and public health guidance is a great habit to have. It’s a hallmark of informed, responsible citizenship. However, with today’s onslaught of information and the variety of available outlets, it can be difficult to parse out the true impact of the content.
When in doubt, always remember that your PCP and pediatrician are reliable sources of information that is personalized to you and your family. Whether or not your child has a respiratory condition such as asthma, consulting with their pediatrician about your gas stove concerns is never a bad idea.
As for me, I will be following the ongoing research about the dangers of natural gas use and airing out the kitchen as I stove-cook my scrambled eggs.
Dr. Christina Johns is a pediatrician + Senior Medical Advisor at PM Pediatric Care, the largest pediatric urgent care group in the U.S.