Gas Stoves Release More Harmful Nanoparticles Than Vehicles, Says Study

Gas stoves emit extremely high levels of tiny toxic particles, which are likely harmful to human health, a new study has found.

It’s been established that indoor gas stoves emit toxic airborne nanoparticles during the cooking process, but new research has found that the amount of emissions can actually exceed vehicles that run on gasoline and diesel engines.

Published in PNAS Nexus and conducted by researchers at Purdue University, the study aimed to quantify the amount of airborne nanoparticles that measure between 1–3 nm, which are called nanocluster aerosol or NCA, released by a gas stove during the cooking process — as these particles are known to efficiently deposit in the human respiratory system and can move to vital organs such as the liver and brain.

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The researchers measured indoor NCA levels during propane gas cooking in the Purdue zero Energy Design Guidance for Engineers (zEDGE) test house — a “tiny” house that resembles a real home but is equipped with sensors and a novel instrument built to detect NCA levels during everyday activities.

While boiling water and cooking grilled cheese sandwiches, for example, the researchers found that as much as ~1016 NCA/kg of cooking fuel was emitted — which is as much as or more NCA than vehicles with internal combustion engines produce.

In fact, during the cooking process, they found that the air surrounding the stove had higher concentrations of NCA than those reported at both urban and rural outdoor sites. This means that cooking on a gas stove exposes a person to significantly more of these toxic nanoparticles than standing in the middle of traffic.

“High NCA emissions from gas cooking cause a major respiratory burden for children and adults due to large doses of NCA to the head airways and tracheobronchial region,” the authors wrote.

Previous research has found an association between indoor gas combustion and childhood asthma, and there is also evidence suggesting that gas cooking may increase the risk of respiratory symptoms in European adults, the study says.

“Our results are broadly relevant given the widespread use of gas combustion (propane, methane) for indoor cooking by the global population,” the authors wrote. “Thus, indoor NCA exposures may represent a major public health concern.”

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