Gas stoves, which have long been a favorite of chefs and foodies, have recently come under scrutiny for potential environmental health hazards. Here’s what you need to know if you own a gas stove or are contemplating the purchase of one.
Just the facts
Earlier this year, an official from the U. S. Product Safety Commission said in a Bloomberg interview that the agency was considering banning gas stoves or regulating their emissions. The agency chairman immediately walked back the notion of banning but suggested regulating emissions.
Some cities around the country have already blocked gas stoves from new construction. Are there genuine environmental and health concerns?
Burning natural gas produces elements harmful to people, mainly nitrogen dioxide. Some studies have said that 12.7 percent of asthma cases in children in the United States are associated with the presence of a gas stove in the home. Critics respond that since these are observational studies with no experimental controls, they cannot accurately factor in variables such as the presence of second-hand smoke, environmental pollution, and other factors.
In addition to nitrogen dioxide, other trace elements are present with burning gas: formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and fine particulate matter.
What can you do if you are concerned about your gas stove as a consumer?
Keeping your gas stove, minimizing the risk
You can mitigate the exposure to these chemical byproducts by venting the room as you cook. If your stove has a vent hood directed to the outside, turn it on at maximum capacity every time you use your stove or oven. If the vent simply recirculates the air, open a window or door and turn on a ceiling fan to push air out.
Alternatives to gas stove cooking
The old standby alternative is the electric range. Another choice is an induction stove.
Electric stoves come in two types. The oldest design has exposed electric coils as the cooking surface. Your pots and pans sit directly on the coils during cooking.
The other type puts the electric coils beneath a ceramic glass surface. Your cooking takes place on top of the glass.
Induction heated stove tops have copper coils beneath a ceramic glass surface. The stove surface itself doesn’t get particularly hot. Instead, the coils send pulses into the cookware which heats up when its molecules vibrate. The cookware must be made of material that is magnetic – either iron or stainless steel.
Pros and cons of each
Besides health questions, how does gas cooking stack up against electric and induction?
- Gas stoves can be easily fine-tuned to incremental degrees of heat, making for very precise cooking. Igniting the flame means instant heat, no waiting. Cleaning can be challenging as food spills onto the cooking grates hardens and is tough to remove.
- Electric stove heat can also be fine-tuned, but it takes a few minutes to heat up. Food that spills onto the hot glass top version can harden and be difficult to remove.
- Induction heats more efficiently than gas or electric, providing better control and faster cook times.
Related – Let’s Go Shopping for a Range