Gas Stoves…Now What?

January 23, 2023

The articles have been around for a couple of years (many years really…), creating a low-level buzz of discomfort in the cooking community. It seems to have become more like a sonic blast now.

Are gas stoves killing us and poisoning the planet?

It takes someone who lives under a rock to think that anything powered by natural gas is not making an impact on the planet. Two-thirds of the natural gas in the United States is obtained through the process of fracking (a deep drilling technology used to obtain petroleum, natural gas, geothermal energy or water from the deep underground).

That said, the average home gas stove is not contributing in the same way to environmental concerns as, say, industrial use of natural gas.

So what is it about gas stoves, beloved by chefs and home cooks for as long as I can remember that suddenly has everyone in a tizzy?

According to the Wall Street Journal: “The controversy erupted earlier in January, when a news report said that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was considering a ban because of indoor-air health concerns, citing an interview with CPSC commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. Mr. Trumka later tweeted that the CPSC “isn’t coming for anyone’s gas stoves,” and a White House spokesman said President Biden didn’t support banning the stoves.”

I have been reading and doing research to try to come to a reasonable conclusion, since many of you are asking me. After all my research, I have to say that I am no closer to a conclusion and a firm decision about my stove than when I began. The jury is out for me still.

Here is what I found.

The real issue in the new gas stove debate is around indoor pollution from small, but continual natural gas leakages from a home stove. Researchers have found that when you turn on the burner, in that second it takes to ignite, methane is released. And once the stove is on, nitrogen oxide is created. Both of these have been shown to be potential irritants to human lungs. Some studies have even linked a small percentage of childhood asthma to gas stoves in the home.

As I read article after article, my head sometimes spinning after the pros versus the cons, I will say this. It seems that the worst offenders when it comes to gas stoves are from older models that could leak. Modern gas stoves have built-in protections against leaks so the risk to human health is minimized. Most kitchens also have hoods or exhaust fans that we absolutely should be using when we cook (whether on gas or electric). I have used my exhaust fan for years when I cook. You can also crack a door or window to create ventilation.

A gas stove uses a tiny percentage of natural gas in a home, so if your stove is working well, aren’t you making a larger footprint on the planet by ditching your perfectly good stove, relegating it to our already overloaded landfills?

I’m not sure that gas cooking deserves the environmental ire it’s suddenly suffering. Yes, it’s natural gas and we all know we need to move on from it. Here is what is interesting to me. Maybe I have done what I do for too long and become suspicious of everything I read.

One of the toxins I mentioned was methane being released in the second between ignition and flame on your stove. But doesn’t that pale in comparison to the 220 pounds per cow released into the air each year from factory farms? Do the math. Roughly 32% of all methane released into the air we breathe comes from cow belches.

And we are worried about gas stoves?

It seems to me that we continuously find some new detail of life to demonize as “The Reason” for what ails us. From gluten (except for those diagnosed with intolerance or celiac) to oil to flour to sprouts to spinach, we skirt around the real issues.

If we stopped producing animals for food, we would not need to worry so much about methane from our gas stoves; notice, I said producing because we do not raise animals anymore. We produce them.  But instead, our focus is pulled to distractions: look over here; pay no attention to the real problem; here’s some smoke and mirrors for you to enjoy. It’s typical of the bread and circus culture we live in, with someone constantly trying to dupe us into following them down a rabbit hole of absurdity while taking our attention from the real problem.

For me, I love my gas stove. As a chef and a macrobiotic educator, cooking over fire, real flames has always been my preference for cooking delicious, nourishing food (and I use my ventilation; always have; a chef, that habit was non-negotiable). I hate the idea of giving it up.

I also love the planet and plan to do the best for Mother Earth and human health as I can. So when I am on the market for a new stove, I will think, research and consider before I buy. I do not have the answer yet. I wanted to open the discussion with all of you to see what you think; what you might have discovered. Let me know; I love hearing what you think.