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Survey finds retailers share little or inaccurate information on gas stove health risks, need for ventilation

LOS ANGELES – Although growing evidence shows that gas stoves fill kitchens and homes with hazardous air pollution, CALPIRG Education Fund, its national partner U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Sierra Club released a new report that found major retailers were largely failing to warn potential customers of gas stove health concerns – and safety measures that could protect their health.

In a survey conducted across 10 states, nearly three-quarters of survey takers were told that gas stove pollution was not a concern, and more than six in 10 were told that ventilation was unnecessary to protect health.

“Consumers deserve the truth when it comes to the danger of cooking with gas stoves. While we should be able to trust retailers are providing thorough information on the products in their stores, our report clearly shows most shoppers aren’t getting information on what they need to do to protect their health,” Jenn Engstrom, state director of CALPIRG Education Fund, said. “The kitchen should be a place of bonding – not a place where our families are exposed to toxic pollution that can make us sick. Retailers need to do better when it comes to educating their customers about the health risks of gas stoves. And it’s past time that California and the federal government do more to protect the public from gas stove pollution.”

The health risks of gas stove pollution have long been recognized. In 1982, Consumer Reports said that “children from gas-stove homes have a greater incidence of respiratory illness and impaired lung function than those from homes with electric stoves.”

Nearly 40 years ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if it should be concerned about the impact of nitrogen dioxide emitted from gas stoves.

The EPA responded that the pollutant could have harmful health effects and CPSC should investigate the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide occurring in America’s kitchens. But these federal agencies – tasked with protecting consumers and public health – have yet to act, leaving consumers largely unaware of risks of cooking with gas-burning stoves and ovens and what they can do to safeguard themselves and their families.

“Consumers are largely in the dark about gas stove health risks. The gas industry has spent decades marketing gas stoves as safe and casting doubt on the clear science linking gas stove use to asthma and other health harms,” Amneh Minkara, building electrification campaign deputy director at Sierra Club, said. “While we understand sales associates cannot be expected to know everything, the public is currently forced to depend solely on information provided at point of sale so health risks associated with gas stoves should be widely shared when helping consumers make their choices in stores – that is until the federal agencies charged with protecting consumers and public health take meaningful action.”

For the “Gas Stoves and Your Health: Consumers aren’t being told about the potential health risks of cooking with gas” report, survey takers entered 38 Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy retail locations and asked sales team representatives questions about gas and electric stoves and other appliances.

Following the conversations, the shoppers filled out surveys to record the information that was provided by sales associates on gas stove pollution, exhaust hoods and electric cooking alternatives and also reported on showroom displays, signage and online.

When asked, nearly three-quarters, or 74%, of store associates shared there were no concerns or they were not aware of any details about gas stove pollution and health risks.

When asked if an externally venting range hood was needed when buying a gas stove, more than six in 10, or 65%, said it was not necessary.

While 74% of sales associates were knowledgeable about how induction works, 13.5% of sales associates recommended gas over induction.

The report comes on the heels of studies finding gas stoves continually leak methane and other hazardous pollutants such as benzene into homes – even when off. While cooking, gas stoves fill homes with pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide within minutes, reaching levels which exceed outdoor health protective standards. Among other health impacts, children who live in homes with gas stoves have a 42% higher risk of developing asthma symptoms and 24% increased risk of being diagnosed with asthma.

The American Medical Association passed a resolution recommending external ventilation for gas cooking as well as a reduction in gas cooking overall and incentives to encourage the equitable adoption of electric cooking alternatives.

In 2023, the Inflation Reduction Act will provide low- and moderate-income households significant incentives to upgrade to induction ranges, including the appliance, electric panel upgrades and wiring. Despite this change, the report showed almost one in five stores didn’t have induction ranges on the showroom floor, and a quarter of store associates were not knowledgeable about how induction works.

In response to the survey findings and the lack of federal action, advocates at Physicians for Social Responsibility have offered educational materials and staff training opportunities to Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy to help ensure consumers are receiving accurate information about gas stove pollution, ventilation and health.

“Gas stove pollution is simply not safe to breathe,” Barbara Gottlieb, environment & health director of PSR, said. “Proper ventilation can help reduce gas stove pollution indoors, but unless you’re running the vent hood around the clock, you still have climate-killing methane and lung-damaging nitrogen dioxide leaking from your gas stove, even when it’s turned off. Try electric cooking with induction cooktops, toaster ovens or even slow cookers for healthier air and healthier families.”

Submitted by CALPIRG Education Fund.

 

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