Your gas stove may cost less than an electric one to operate, but it releases chemicals that can harm your health -- and the environment.
Gas stoves run on a type of fossil fuel. The chemicals they release can trigger respiratory symptoms and illnesses, even when the appliance is off.
But switching to an electric stove may not be a simple solution. It costs money to equip your home to handle an electric stove (you may need to update electric sources and circuits). Even if you switch, your home still may use natural gas to power the electric stove -- that can be a downer if you want to change for environmental reasons. Some people prefer gas to electric because they believe it cooks better. Electric appliances can come with their own set of safety and health drawbacks.
How Many Americans Use Gas Stoves?
About 89% of homes in the U.S. have a cooktop stove and oven. Only about half the homes in the U.S. can get access to gas, and about 38% use it for cooking. Electricity is the most common energy source used for cooking.
How Can Gas Stoves Harm Human Health?
Gas stoves can release carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and water vapor. They also give off methane, benzene, and a host of other harmful chemicals.
One main concern about cooking with gas is that the by-products can trigger respiratory symptoms and illnesses in adults and children. Nitrogen dioxide gas and PM2.5 (an airborne particle) can irritate your lungs.
According to one study, 12.7% of childhood asthma in the U.S. may be linked to gas stoves. Another study found that the amount of nitrogen dioxide released from gas stoves is enough to raise the chances that a child will have a respiratory illness by about 20%. More research says gas cooking increases a child’s risk of asthma and that nitrogen dioxide is linked to wheezing.
Experts say chemicals from the gas stoves can cause and make chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worse.
Benzene can cause a host of other health problems like headaches and heart problems.
A gas stove can also give off methane. Research shows that methane leaks even if the stove’s not on. The greenhouse gas can expose you to pollutants linked to respiratory ailments. In high amounts, it can reduce oxygen in the air. In one study, the amount of methane released from stoves over a 20-year span has the same climate impact as about 500,000 gasoline-powered cars. (There were about 275 million on U.S. roads in 2020.)
The amount of indoor pollutants is a health concern because homes are enclosed and can’t release chemicals as they could in open air.
Can I Still Use a Gas Stove and Be Safe?
If you use a gas stove, you can lower health risks:
- Service your kitchen range when the flames aren’t blue, they don’t light correctly, or they produce soot.
- Ask a specialist to look at your furnace to make sure it’s operating safely.
- Don’t block any air vent holes or block them with foil.
- Don’t use your kitchen oven to heat your home.
- Try to keep the unit clean.
- Use an exhaust hood vented to the outdoors.
- Don’t use the self-clean feature, as it can release carbon monoxide.
- Cook on the back burners so gases can be routed through the hood.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector.
- Use an air purifier.
- Open a window when you cook.
Is Switching to an Electric Stove Better for My Health?
Not necessarily. Just switching to an electric stove doesn’t mean you’re without potential risks. Any type of cooking causes the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ultrafine particles.
Electric stoves have potential hazards, too. Houses with them were 2.6 times more likely to have fires than those with gas stoves. The death rate for electric households was 3.4 times higher compared to houses with gas appliances. Fire injury rates were almost 5 times higher in homes that had electric ranges over gas ones.
Left unchecked, furnaces that run on natural gas can be harmful to your health, too. Gas (and oil) furnaces can release carbon monoxide, which can deprive you of oxygen and be fatal.
Is Switching to an Electric Stove Better for the Environment?
If you switch to an electric oven, you may still be using fossil fuels. That’s because it takes a primary source of energy, like natural gas or coal, to produce electricity. (The electric stove itself won’t give off harmful chemicals, though burning food can.)
In the U.S., 38% of electricity is produced by natural gas, 22% comes from coal. Other sources of electricity include 19% from nuclear power and 20% from renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydropower.
If you’re concerned about energy efficiency, an induction stove is the best bet. It’s 5% to 10% more efficient than an electric stove and about three times more efficient than gas. They run on electricity and use magnetic units to make a magnetic current that heats the cookware.
Is an Electric Stove Better Than a Gas Stove?
There are pluses and minuses for each type. This can depend on your priorities and your financial resources.
Electric stoves tend to win out better for different types of cooking like baking and broiling. They may be more expensive to run than gas stoves, depending on where you live.
Some people like electric stoves because they heat up quicker than gas. If your power goes out, though, you cannot use the electric range but the gas oven will continue to let you cook.
Electric stoves may be better for the environment, and electric appliances (such as slow cookers and electric kettles) don’t give off harmful chemicals.