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Cooking on Back Burners Better for Indoor Air?

Test of Over-the-Stove Vent Fans With Gas Stoves Reveals Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Testing Vent Fans Over Gas Stoves continued...

But all the exhaust systems worked better over the two back burners of a four-burner stove.

"If you're cooking on the front burners and you turn the fan on, you can remove 25% of the pollution, but if you cook on the back burners you'll remove twice as much," says researcher Brett C. Singer, PhD, a civil and environmental engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.

The reason, Singer says, is that hot air rises in a column over each burner and many ventilation systems only extend over the back half of stovetop, missing the front burners.

Gas Stoves May Be a Source of Indoor Air Pollution

How much air pollution can a gas stove generate? Singer says an upcoming study will show that the levels of nitrogen dioxide generated by a gas stove can exceed the EPA's safe limits for outdoor air.

"There are few if any places that exceed those outdoor standards for nitrogen dioxide," Singer says.

"But indoors, millions of Americans are exposed to those levels from using their gas stoves without venting. For most of those people, if they used their venting range hood, they'd be fine," he tells WebMD.

Nitrogen dioxide is a corrosive gas that can irritate the lining of the eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract.

According to the EPA, exposure to even low levels of nitrogen dioxide can make it more likely that people with asthma will suffer attacks. It can also decrease lung function in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and increase the risk of respiratory infections, especially in young children.

If you have a gas stove, researchers advise doing three things to increase the health of your indoor air:

  • Make sure the fan over the stove vents to the outside. If it doesn't, consider having a better exhaust system installed. In general, vents that best captured pollutants use metal hoods to temporarily trap gas and soot so the fan can blow them outside.
  • Turn the vent fan on while cooking.
  • When possible, cook on the back burners of the stove.
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