Thanks to various health and climate concerns, Americans may soon have to quit cooking with gas. On Monday, US Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. told Bloomberg that the federal agency was considering a nationwide ban on the installation of new gas stoves—or at least, a new set of standards intended to regulate their toxic fumes, such as the mandatory installation of high efficiency exhaust vents in home and restaurant kitchens. “Any option is on the table,” Trumka said. “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”
Cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York have already outlawed gas stoves in certain residences. Earlier this month, New York Governor Kathy Hochul proposed an end to gas hookups in all new buildings in the state. But at least 20 other state governments, including those in Utah, Ohio, and Iowa, have passed laws to prevent cities implementing natural gas bans—moves now at odds with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) pending action. Still, it seems likely a nationwide move to electric is not an if, but a when.
So what’s the health and environmental impact of gas stoves?
For decades, scientists and activists have sought to expose the harmful effects of gas stoves, which are currently used in about 40% of US homes and almost 80% of restaurants. When they’re firing, gas stoves release nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde in amounts that would violate the outdoor air quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Even when they’re not actively in use, gas stoves continue to leak methane, a greenhouse gas that’s considered more potent than carbon dioxide, though it doesn’t hang around in the atmosphere for nearly as long.
Studies show that the indoor pollution caused by cooking on gas stoves can be particularly harmful to the lungs, impair cognitive ability, and increase the likelihood of children developing asthma by 24%. Another peer review recently estimated that 12.7% of child asthma cases could be attributed to their household’s gas stove—and other experts have likened the effects to living in the same house as a smoker. (Though, Brown University economist Emily Oster has questioned the asthma study’s conclusions.)
What do politicians and chefs think of this new development?
Some Republicans took to Twitter warning their base that the Biden administration, which is pushing to make US homes more energy efficient, is overreaching into American kitchens. “Washington bureaucrats should have no say in how Americans prepare their dinner,” tweeted South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan, calling the move a “power grab.” Meanwhile, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez backed the agency move, tweeting about the negative links between nitrogen oxide and cognitive performance.
Some in the restaurant industry were equally fired up, claiming that gas is the most efficient method for cooking at scale. “More fodder in the war on gas that will hurt low-income homes and small biz.” tweeted Andrew Gruel, a California-based chef who appeared as a judge on the Food Network’s Food Truck Face Off. Stratis Morfogen, the managing director of Brooklyn Chop House in New York City, told Tucker Carlson that any bans would “destroy our industry,” citing skyrocketing electric bills. But Justin Lee, the chef of New York City’s now-shuttered Fat Choy, became an accidental fan when his new kitchen space turned out not to have gas hookups. He had to make do with induction, an eventual “workhorse” for the restaurant, he told The New York Times. “It can boil water in minutes, which, for cooking noodles, is significantly faster than gas.”