This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
A conversation around gas stove safety has boiled over in recent months. While more research is needed and no gas stove ban appears imminent, two recent studies show that natural gas stoves may pose a far more serious risk than previously thought. One even found a 13% increase in childhood asthma in homes that use natural gas for cooking.
The clamor and rhetoric coming from politicians, research organizations, government officials and the general public have many of us wondering: Are gas stoves dangerous? And should you replace your gas stove with an electric model?
One thing is certain, if you currently use a natural gas stove, you'll want to do everything you can to mitigate risk for you and your family. Below, you'll find a gas stove safety guide with easy ways to protect your home from the harmful toxins found in natural gas.
Are natural gas stoves dangerous?
The conversation around gas stove safety reached a fever pitch in January when Richard Trumka, an official with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, hinted in an interview with Bloomberg that natural gas stoves could be banned if found to be dangerous. Trumka has since walked back the comments following a firestorm of backlash. While the CPSC has not made any formal statements about natural gas stoves being unsafe, there is mounting evidence to the contrary.
As many as 40% of stoves in the US run on natural gas. In its unburned state, natural gas contains harmful air toxins, including benzene, a chemical linked to cancer, and methane, which is harmful to the environment. In theory, natural gas' harmful toxins are eliminated during combustion, but last year's Harvard study proved stoves often leak the toxic unburned gas when not in use. The study also found that the odorants added to natural gas to help people detect leaks were done inconsistently, making it harder to catch a gas leak using your nose.
Another study from December 2022 showed that US homes with natural gas stoves had 13% more instances of childhood asthma. The number was even higher in certain states, including Illinois, New York and California.
How to protect yourself from natural gas
1. Keep your kitchen ventilated
Keeping your kitchen well-ventilated, especially while cooking with gas, is one of the best defenses against gas leaks, airborne chemicals and toxins. Most kitchens have windows; if weather permits, you should always keep one open or cracked while cooking.
For kitchens without windows and during colder months when cracking a window is not a viable option, consider adding a powerful fan to the kitchen that will help disperse concentrated air that may be harmful.
You should also run the exhaust fan above your range whenever the oven burners or stove is on and keep it running for 20 minutes or so even after you're finished since benzene and carbon monoxide may still be lingering in the air.
2. Monitor your kitchen's air quality
Arguably, even more important than kitchen ventilation is keeping tabs on your air quality, and several devices are designed to do just that. Adding a carbon monoxide detector is a good start, but most are limited in the toxins they detect. More advanced air quality monitors such as Airthings View Plus and Nest Protect will register other volatile organic compounds (the bad stuff) and sync with an app to alert you directly via your mobile device when air quality becomes dangerous.
As a bonus, monitors like Airthings detect radon, an airborne carcinogen that occurs naturally as well as other harmful VOCs emitted from plastic wrapping materials, packaging and elsewhere.
3. Don't let the burner run without ignition
This one may seem obvious, but letting the gas run before lighting more than a second or two can emit harmful toxins into your kitchen. If your stove burners aren't igniting right away, you may want to have the stove inspected, repaired or replaced. And double check that all burners are switched off when you've finished cooking.
4. Adding an air purifier may help, but it's not a fix-all
HEPA air purifiers help to clean dirty air, and adding one can lower the risk of airborne toxins in the kitchen. But there are several toxins in natural gas, including benzene and carbon monoxide, that air purifiers won't remove. So, plopping one by the stove is by no means a panacea for poor kitchen air quality. HEPA air purifiers may reduce these harmful volatile organic compounds but they won't eliminate them completely. These products should be used in concert with other defenses and safeguards.
5. Have your gas stove checked for leaks
Last year's Harvard study shows that gas stoves leak far more when not in use than previously thought. Because this gas is unburned, it's particularly toxic if inhaled. If you're worried about how much gas is leaking from your stove, you can have it tested by a service person from your gas company or hire a professional.
This is particularly important if you ever smell gas in the kitchen. If you do, you can bet there is probably a gas leak, and you should vacate the home until the problem is identified. If you want to test for gas leaks yourself, you can buy a detector for about $30 on Amazon.
6. Switch to propane gas or an electric stove
This is the most surefire fix but also the most inconvenient and expensive solution. Switching to an electric stove or non-toxic propane fuel will mitigate the risks associated with natural gas. But even cooking with an electric stove can negatively affect air quality since burnt food and oils can release toxins into the air. It's a much lower risk than natural gas but is still reason enough to keep your kitchen ventilated and regularly test for air quality.
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