Viewpoint: Ignore cooking science at your children’s peril
Avoid guilt like my mother experienced after exposing us to second-hand smoke from the habit that killed her. Heed a 2013 analysis of 41 studies concluding that gas cooking increases the risk of asthma in children and that nitrous oxide “ exposure is linked with currently having a wheeze.”
PBS science correspondent Miles O’Brien demonstrated an alternative. His induction stove, boiled water in 30 seconds.
Discussing how natural gas affects health reemerged with recent publication of peer reviewed research led by Colorado’s prestigious Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a think tank promoting renewable energy. It realized 12.7 % of U.S. childhood asthma cases “is attributable to gas stove use.”
“States [like Illinois] with a higher percentage of children living in households with gas stoves [79.1%] have higher proportions of current childhood asthma attributable to stove usage [21.1%].” In Florida, where only 9.1% of households with children cook with natural gas, the risk of developing asthma from gas exposure dropped to 3%.
In rebuttal, the American Gas Association (AGA) claimed RMI authors “…ignored literature, including one study of data collected from more than 500,000 children in 47 countries that ‘detected no evidence of an association between the use of gas as a cooking fuel…’” and asthma.
Whoops! The lead author of the study the AGA quoted says the AGA itself ignored his other 41-study meta-analysis of research done as of 2013 documenting that cooking with natural gas IS associated with asthma.
Also, AGA’s 500,000-children and 47-country numbers are misleading. They included numerous children exposed to open fire cooking other than with natural gas in many of those 47 countries. That part of the 47-country analysis found: “The use of an open fire for cooking was associated with an increased risk of…” childhood asthma.
Further, the RMI and allied medical faculty authors did not ignore literature. They started by “…including only [the 357] manuscripts of human studies published in English since 4 January 2013,” identifying “… 27 manuscripts as potentially pertinent.” Since the study the AGA relies on was published during the first year included by RMI researchers, it was not “ignored” as AGA claims. It simply was not “pertinent,” since it did not focus on the US or Europe and included much open fire data.
PBS featured a researcher measuring NOx levels emitted by gas stoves, which were “nearly 40 times higher than World Health Organization standards.”[vii] Last summer, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution informing physicians of the stoves’ link to asthma.
Yet Larry Kudlow, FOX Business Anchor lamented: “… you have got this campaign by all these left-wing groups to end gas-burning stoves.” A FOX reporter also yelled, “Gas stoves don't cause asthma. There's no research proving that.”
That’s a specious strawman argument. Researchers do not contend you will get asthma if you have a gas stove, only that the risk of getting it increases when stoves are present.
Rich Lowry, editor-in-chief of the conservative National Review lampoons the 12.7% study too, claiming: “The debate over gas stoves illustrates perfectly the faux scientific method.” Lowry objected to the Washington Post which reported: “Scientists say a growing body of research shows that gas stoves pose a threat to the planet and public health.”
“That’s a lot of sayin’ by a mass of mostly unidentified scientists,” Lowry wrote in his King syndicate column. No, Rich, the 12.7% study identifies its authors, so does the meta-analysis of 41 studies, and all 27 pertinent manuscripts reviewed by the 12.7% authors.
Lowry’s ilk[xiii] insist you ignore as “faux” the mounting scientific research and label RMI, medical researchers, the AMA, Scientific American, PBS, Science Friday,[xiv] and peer reviewed publications “left-wing” groups that you can safely dismiss.
The alternative, if you cannot jettison your gas stove, is to vent it to the outside or crack a window. To help you avoid NOx, methane, and carcinogenic benzine fumes altogether, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) created an $840 per appliance tax rebate to encourage induction cooking.
States must apply for IRA rebates to distribute them. [xv] So, join the AMA in advocating for “… mitigation of cost to encourage the transition from gas stoves….”[xvi] Urge state leaders to support IRA incentives. It’ll facilitate easier breathing for everyone.
Russ Doty is a retired Colorado, Montana, and Minnesota Attorney, and former: Montana legislator, Assistant Montana Attorney General, and Minnesota Contract Administrative Law Judge. He lives in Greeley and writes occasionally on energy and politics for several news outlets.