New study links gas stoves to child asthma, lung cancer and death

A study led by Stanford researchers says nitrogen dioxide exposure from gas stoves could be responsible for an estimated 19,000 deaths per year.
Person lights a gas burner on a stove.
Posted at 3:01 PM, May 07, 2024

About 50 million homes across the U.S. use gas stoves, and millions more use them throughout the world.

But a new study by Stanford University researchers is raising alarms on health effects from gas stoves, like child asthma, certain cancers, and even death.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, highlights concerns of elements like nitrogen dioxide and benzene being released into the air by gas stoves and becoming trapped indoors, increasing concentrations of these pollutants at levels higher than health benchmarks set by the World Health Organization.

The study attributed 50,000 cases of child asthma to long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide, likely caused by gas stoves. It said long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide can also cause lung cancer, preterm birth, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — which can also cause death.

The study says nitrogen dioxide exposure from gas stoves can be responsible for up to an estimated 19,000 deaths per year.

Factors of the home like size, layout and ventilation play a role in the level of health risks from gas stoves.

“We found that just how much gas you burn in your stove is by far the biggest factor affecting how much you’re exposed. And then, after that, do you have an effective range hood, and do you use it?” said lead study author Yannai Kashtan in a press release.

Even in more spacious homes, nitrogen dioxide can spike to unhealthy levels. But smaller homes are exposed to more danger. Households of less than 800 square feet are exposed to four times more nitrogen dioxide than homes greater than 3,000 square feet.

Even rooms far away from kitchens are not immune to high levels of exposure.

“I didn’t expect to see pollutant concentrations breach health benchmarks in bedrooms within an hour of gas stove use, and stay there for hours after the stove is turned off,” study author and Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability professor Rob Jackson said in a press release.

It’s not just a concern for those who cook, he said. “It’s the whole family’s problem.”

While opening a window didn’t help short-term exposures to nitrogen dioxide much, it made a significant difference in long-term exposure levels.

People who keep their windows closed are exposed to nine times more long-term nitrogen dioxide than those who leave their windows open, the study says.

Breathing high levels of nitrogen dioxide can also cause asthma attacks and stunt lung development in children.