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The Hazards of Cooking With Gas

Researchers in California report that indoor pollution levels exceed legal outdoor limits in many homes with gas stoves

Posted on Aug 6 2013 by Scott Gibson

Cooking with gas lowers indoor air quality and raises a variety of health concerns, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report.

Scientists found indoor pollution levels in many homes exceeded legal outdoor limits. In an article posted at Indoor Environment Connections, Dr. Brett Singer said, "If these were conditions that were outdoors, the Environmental Protection Agency would be cracking down. But since it's in people's homes, there's no regulation requiring anyone to fix it.

"Reducing people's exposure to pollutants from gas stoves should be a public health priority," Singer added.

Researchers estimated that 60% of California homes where a gas stove was used for cooking at least once a week had indoor pollutant levels exceeding legal outdoor limits. The finding means that millions of people are subjected to levels of nitrogen dioxide, formaldehydeChemical found in many building products; most binders used for manufactured wood products are formaldehyde compounds. Reclassified by the United Nations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2004 as a “known human carcinogen.", and carbon monoxide in excess of current standards.

Performance of range hoods varied

Previously, Indoor Environment Connections said, researchers found range hoods varied widely in how effectively they remove pollutants. That study focused on seven models ranging in price from $40 to $650, with the "capture efficiency" of the units measured at less than 15% to more than 98%.

The hoods typically did a better job of capturing pollutants from the back burners than from the front of the stove. Hoods with grease screens and metal-covered bottoms didn't do as well as those with open designs.

One hood was able to capture more than 80% of the pollutants from the front burners, but it was too loud to allow for normal conversation. That suggested to Singer that manufacturers could do better in their designs.

For more information on this topic, see Pollution in the Home: Kitchens Can Produce Hazardous Levels of Indoor Pollutants. Brett Singer's full report is posted online: A Method to Estimate the Chronic Health Impact of Air Pollutants in U.S. Residences.

In a related project, Berkeley Lab researchers concluded the health consequences of poor indoor air quality "are as significant as those from all traffic accidents or infectious diseases in the United States." Cooking was said to be a major contributor to the problem, not only because of the gas burners but also because of pollutants given off as foods are cooked.


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1.
Aug 6, 2013 4:51 PM ET

Edited Aug 6, 2013 9:41 PM ET.

Which hoods worked?
by Eric Sandeen

Is a summary of the findings of the Berkeley study available anywhere? It's a pity that the results of a study "funded by the California Energy Commission, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency" are behind a paywall.


2.
Aug 7, 2013 5:07 AM ET

Edited Sep 3, 2013 2:00 PM ET.

Are Good Cooking Smells Really Pollution?
by Kevin Dickson, MSME

I would think if you don't often burn your food, then the air remains pretty healthy if you cook with electric. Water vapor is the most common byproduct of the actual cooking process.


3.
Aug 7, 2013 7:12 AM ET

Edited Aug 7, 2013 3:18 PM ET.

Response to Eric Sandeen
by Martin Holladay

Eric,
The full report is posted online: A Method to Estimate the Chronic Health Impact of Air Pollutants in U.S. Residences.


4.
Aug 7, 2013 10:08 AM ET

My worrying experience
by Nelson Labbe

Earlier this year I measured carbon dioxide (CO2) levels while running our gas oven for almost an hour. The CO2 levels went from 500 ppm to 1,900 ppm, with the exhasut fan on! The CO2 levels in the bedrooms upstairs went to 1,700. I think that the OSHA recommended CO2 level is below 1,000 ppm. The CO2 levels in the kitchen didn't fall below 1,000 ppm until almost noon the next day. I'm also worried about the other pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitorgen dioxide and formaldehyde. I wonder how much pollution we were exposed to around holidays when the oven and several burners would be on for hours a day.
Thanks Scott for your post on this issue. We don't have a gas stove anymore, only because we were in the process of moving to a house doesn't have a gas stove, but I'm still concerned about those who do.


5.
Aug 7, 2013 3:05 PM ET

Edited Aug 7, 2013 3:22 PM ET.

If they are referring to our old EHP paper, it is publicly avai
by Jennifer Logue

Hello all, I am the first author of this publication and it will be available for free.

The one behind a pay wall is here:
http://homes.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/a-method-to-estimate-the-chronic-he....

All published works are publicly available from LBNL. The format is copy-written by the journal. but the content is public property and we make sure to publish it in a free, accessible format. There may be a slight delay between journal publication and publication on our website (this is because we want the LBL report to have the exact same content as the journal paper, so we don't publish the report until the final version of the paper is accepted). The link may not be in the article you read, but if you google the title, plus LBL you should get the link. If that is not the way you want to find it, you can go to the EETD publication site (http://eetd.lbl.gov/publications) and search for the title or the author. Finally, if you can't find the report, it is best just to email the first author. All of our email addresses are publicly available and we respond fairly quickly.


6.
Aug 7, 2013 3:19 PM ET

Response to Jennifer Logue
by Martin Holladay

Jennifer,
Thanks for your very helpful post, with the link to the full paper.


7.
Aug 7, 2013 3:24 PM ET

The study is available
by Scott Gibson

Good point. I followed up with Allan Chen at the Berkeley Lab, who contacted Jennifer Logue, an author of one of the studies. She explains the content of these reports is, in fact, free and public. You can find studies by searching the data base at the Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division. The full text of the report on the efficiency of kitchen fans is available here. But as you'll see, it does not mention the fans by brand.


8.
Aug 7, 2013 4:16 PM ET

Edited Aug 7, 2013 4:23 PM ET.

Thanks, all
by Eric Sandeen

Thank you - I figured that the formatted paper was property of the journal, but I could not find any other copy. I appreciate the responses!

Oh, and for Scott - on pages S-3 and later, they do actually identify fans by model number (BROAN 423001, QT230BL, QS330WW, QDE30SS, Air King ESDQ1303, Panasonic NN-­‐SD277BR, and Vent-a-hood PR9-­‐130)


9.
Aug 7, 2013 4:29 PM ET

Thanks, Eric
by Scott Gibson

You're absolutely right.


10.
Apr 17, 2016 3:47 PM ET

MUA Units
by Armando Cobo

Since the "TX Custom Home Code" requires all houses to have professional gas stoves, and the bigger the better, with exhaust fans from 1200-1500cfm, we've starting to use Fantech MUAS650 without the heaters. For the house MUA, we are using the Fantech FIT 120E ERV. Both units work great keeping low CO2s, and really easy to fit between roof trusses.
(JIC, we receive no compensation form Fantech, though it would be nice if they throw us a free unit now and then)... ;-))


11.
Apr 17, 2016 5:51 PM ET

Armando,
by Malcolm Taylor

The "TX Custom Home Code". Haha. Nicely put!


12.
Apr 17, 2016 6:33 PM ET

In Texas...
by Martin Holladay

Everything's bigger in Texas. Even the pressure imbalance when you turn on the range hood.


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