person turning on a gas stove

Are Gas Stoves Bad for Your Health?

August 31, 2023

Gas stoves have been a huge topic of conversation as news outlets discuss potential health risks and government officials discuss new possible regulations. But what does the science say?

A recent study suggests that gas stoves contribute to about 13 percent of childhood asthma cases in the U.S.—equivalent to the risk of developing asthma due to exposure to secondhand smoke. NO2 can cause breathing problems, particularly for those with asthma or other respiratory illnesses. Long-term exposure to NO2 from gas stoves has also been linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Columbia’s Darby Jack, PhD, associate professor of environmental health sciences, has studied indoor air pollution for more than a decade, focusing on the health impacts of low-emission cookstove alternatives and the benefits of transitioning away from cooking gas. He was involved in a recent study that revealed interesting findings.

What One Study Says About Switching to Induction Stoves

Jack partnered with the environmental group WE ACT on a study that replaced gas stoves with induction stoves in 20 affordable housing homes and monitored the resulting changes in indoor air quality. The study found that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration when cooking with gas stoves jumped to an average of 197 ppb, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” Households with induction stoves only registered an average 14 ppb.

Over a ten-month period, households with induction stoves saw a 35 percent drop in daily NO2 concentrations compared to those who used gas stoves. Participants also prefer their new stoves to their old gas ones, citing ease of use and cooking quality.

Tips for Minimizing Gas Stove Risks

Replacing a gas stove may not be feasible for many households, but there are ways to reduce your risk. Dr. Jack has spoken with news outlets like The Guardian about ways to reduce the health risks of gas stoves.

“Nobody needs to rush out and take urgent action or be worried they’re going to die tomorrow because of their cooking with gas,” he says. “If you have a good hood that ventilates to the outdoors, that probably gets you most of the way in terms of reducing the risk for NO2 exposure, but you need to use it.”

No matter what stove technology is used, it’s important to avoid breathing cooking smoke, as all cooking smoke comes with its own health risks. Although the safest move is replacing your gas stove with an electric or induction cooktop, the Columbia Climate School offers tips for improving indoor air quality:

  • Open windows when you cook and use a window fan to circulate air
  • Install a ventilation hood over the cooktop (that ideally vents to the outdoors) and use it whenever cooking
  • Use back burners instead of front burners
  • Cook at lower heat, and use fewer burners
  • Avoid long cooking times on the stove (or in the oven)
  • When possible, use electric appliances, such as microwaves, toaster ovens, slow cookers, kettles, pressure cookers, or rice cookers
  • If you can’t afford an induction stove, consider buying a portable induction burner, which doesn’t need additional wiring.

Switching from a gas stove to an induction or electric stove may make your household healthier, but also the entire planet.

“It’s an important piece of the decarbonization puzzle,” says Jack. “There are opportunities to deliver both greenhouse gas emission reduction benefits and short-term immediate health benefits by reducing indoor exposure to NO2.”