Doctor urges parents not to panic over study on gas stoves and asthma

Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 7:20 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A recent health report made a startling conclusion: gas stoves cause a significant number of childhood asthma cases in the U.S. But a Vermont doctor is urging parents not to panic.

Just under 10% of children in Vermont have asthma. But a leading expert in the state says you can’t point to gas stoves as the singular cause of any of those cases.

It’s a familiar sound in millions of homes across America: the burner click of a gas stove before a delicious meal.

But a new study had some pulling the pan. It was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The researchers used available data, including the 2019 American Housing Survey, to run numbers. They concluded that more than 12.5% of current childhood asthma in the U.S. is because of gas stove use.

“Don’t, don’t panic,” said Dr. Kelly Cowan, a pediatric pulmonologist at the UVM Children’s Hospital.

Cowan does research on indoor air quality and children’s health and says asthma isn’t that straightforward.

“The problem of what causes asthma is really complicated. And there’s clearly more than one factor. We know that indoor air quality is really important, but for children with asthma, it’s more complex than just one thing,” she said.

Cowan says respiratory illness and other environmental triggers, like tobacco smoke, also contribute to asthma. And that it’s not as easy as saying “we have this much asthma because of gas stoves.”

“During the pandemic part where a lot of kids were quarantining at home, we saw really, really low rates of asthma exacerbations and asthma symptoms, and presumably that people were home with, if they have a gas stove in there, you know, indoor air triggers at home. We’re home with these things. And there were still overall a lot less asthma exacerbations,” Cowan said.

However, she says this has launched an important conversation about overall air quality for children, including gas stoves that can pollute the air with nitrogen dioxide.

“There’s a lot of good, everyday things we do in our homes, like cooking, cleaning, heating that do produce parts of air pollution in our homes. And those are things that we want to think about improving,” the doctor said.

Cowan recommends running a range hood, cracking a window when possible and/or using a HEPA filter in the kitchen. That’s what Efficiency Vermont recommends as well. Stepping outside of the conversation specifically about asthma and children, a spokesperson said, in part: “Cooking with gas produces more pollutants than cooking with electricity as the gas emits harmful by-products such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde... If indoor air quality is your top priority, Efficiency Vermont recommends using efficient electric stoves with proper ventilation.”