Indoor air quality really suffers in the winter as we shut the windows against the cold. One of the biggest contributors to poor indoor air quality is cooking. Not using your range hood fan can put your family’s health at risk. A study by Berkeley Laboratories found that 50 to 70% of homes that are fitted with a gas stove exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of clean air and quarter of those had indoor air that was worse than London’s worst smog events.
Just about everything in your home off-gasses volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). VOCs
Cleaning products, furniture, building materials and plastics all release chemicals into the air that you breathe in. The EPA claims that indoor air can be fives times more polluted than outdoor air. You can ensure your indoor air is safe by avoiding chemical cleaners, dealing with mold and removing furniture and building materials that have high urea formaldehyde content and always (always!) using your range hood.
Using a gas stove or oven releases contaminants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and formaldehyde (HCHO) into your home. These noxious gases can cause a plethora of respiratory issues and other ailments. A recent study found that gas stoves regularly exceed the recommended amount of CO and NO2, especially for those who are doing all the cooking and children who are at stove height.
A study by Brett Singer, a scientist at Berkeley Lab; “A gas burner almost always produces significant quantities of nitrogen dioxide, which is a respiratory irritant. Depending on the burner configuration, it can also produce carbon monoxide, which is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. In general, newer cooktop burners don’t produce much carbon monoxide because of design improvements.”
Another study of preschool children in Helsinki found that those who lived in homes with gas stoves had carbon monoxide exposures that were double those of children who lived in homes with electric stoves.
The best way to control cooking contaminants is to use the hood exhaust fan every time you cook or opt for an electric stove. If you don’t have an exhaust fan, install one as soon as possible and use it every time you cook. Try to keep children outside the kitchen when you are cooking on a gas stove.
The Berkeley study found that 10% of home owners with natural gas stoves don’t use their range hoods at all while only a third use it consistently. 21% said they didn’t use the range hood because of the noise while 48% said they didn’t think it was necessary to use the hood unless they were frying something.
A 2012 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives used a measuring scale known as disability-adjusted life-year which measures the impact pollution has on people’s life expectancy and found that indoor air pollution has the same effect on health as car accidents and is way more impactful than secondhand smoke or radon.
Over a third of households use natural gas for cooking. These stoves can be used safely if you always turn on the range hood to vent noxious gases. Always cook in a well-ventilated kitchen and ensure that your range hood covers all the plates.