History at a glance
- Previous research has linked gas stoves in the home to an increased risk of asthma symptoms in children.
- In addition, even when turned off, gas stoves can leak carcinogenic benzene.
- The researchers suggest that retailers become more proactive about informing consumers about the health risks posed by gas stoves.
When buying gas stoves at Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy, consumers may not be informed about the health risks the appliances pose, according to new results of a small study.
The US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund and the Sierra Club had staff and volunteers track information provided by sales associates at 38 different locations in 10 states.
The information related to gas stove pollution, exhaust hoods and electric cooking alternatives, and found that “consumers receive little or no information about the potential health hazards of gas stove pollution or the need for ventilation” at the point of sale. , the authors write.
Lowe’s did not respond to requests for comment. Home Depot declined to comment before the report’s release, and Best Buy did not comment when reached by Changing America.
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When lit, gas stoves can release nitrogen dioxide pollution, which can increase children’s risk of asthma symptoms and diagnoses.
Nitrogen dioxide can also affect the cardiovascular system, has been linked to diabetes and “there is some evidence that it can affect cognitive development and can lead to an increase in ADHD symptoms,” said Barbara Gottlieb, director of environment and health at Physicians. for Social Responsibility, in an interview with Changing America. Gottlieb was not involved in the current PIRG study.
And when turned off, gas stoves can leak dangerous levels of benzene, comparable to that of secondhand smoke.
Other pollutants such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde have also been linked to the equipment, Gottlieb added.
Despite these risks, 74 percent of store associates said they had no concerns or were unaware of any details about gas stove pollution and health risks.
Exhaust hoods that vent to the outside can help reduce exposure to pollutants. When co-workers were asked if a vented hood was necessary when buying a gas stove, 65 percent said the measure was not necessary.
Half of the 38 shops visited did not display ventilation hoods near gas stoves.
“If you have a gas stove, you should have an outdoor vent hood and use it every time you turn on your stove,” said Matt Casale, a co-author of the report and director of environmental campaigns at the US Educational Fund PIRG.
However, hoods are not a solution, Casale explained in an interview with Changing America. Stoves can leak pollutants even when turned off, while some hoods trap less than 15 percent of emissions.
“It’s important that the vent gets the air out of the house because some ‘so-called’ vents just recirculate the air inside the house,” Gottlieb said.
Although, “we don’t really want this air pollution outside either,” Casale added.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission does not require manufacturers to include warning labels about the potential dangers of gas stoves, the report said, and no federal agency currently regulates indoor air quality in homes.
“There isn’t some kind of standard regulatory scheme to protect consumers from gas stove pollution,” Casale said. And when consumers shop for a new stove, new data suggests they aren’t getting enough information to make an informed decision for themselves and their family, he added.
In the absence of federal or state regulation, many consumers can rely on salespeople for education.
An alternative to a gas stove is an electric or induction stove that does not emit harmful pollutants into the air. Most sales staff (74 percent) were aware of how induction works, a finding the researchers found encouraging.
In addition to training staff to answer questions about indoor air pollution and gas stoves, retailers seeking to better protect consumer health can also package and display hoods in a way that makes clear the need for external ventilation for gas stoves, the authors write.
Stores can design materials that promote the clean air benefits of electrical appliances and ensure brick-and-mortar stores have exposed induction ranges, they noted.
Retailers can also provide consumers with information on electrification rebates and tax credits available during in-person and online shopping experiences. As part of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, individuals may be eligible for up to $840 in incentives to help pay for an electric stove.
In addition, stores may require stricter regulations on the pollution of gas stoves.
“It’s an opportunity to provide a really important service to customers and it’s protecting them from some of these damages,” Casale said. “Retailers don’t want their customers to get sick from their products.”
Home depot, Lowe’s, Buy better and many other retailers have signed climate commitments, “and [these actions] could be part of that,” he added.
The study was conducted in September and October 2022 at stores located in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Illinois, Colorado, Texas, California, Oregon and Washington.
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