Gas cooking: hazardous to our health and costly to society

It has been a hot topic for debate in the USA recently but a new study by CLASP – a non-profit coalition of UK groups which includes Global Action Plan and Parents for the Future – suggests the UK is about to enter the discussion surrounding the use of gas for home cooking. 

Titled ‘Exposing the Public Health Impacts of Cooking with Gas’ the report – which has technical input from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research – claims gas cooking appliances may be exposing millions of people in the UK to levels of indoor air pollution beyond those stipulated in national and international regulations.

hamburger patties cooking in a frying pan on the stove

The report, the authors say, ‘synthesises old and new research on the health risks of cooking with gas, quantifies the societal cost, and provides actionable solutions to mitigate and remove indoor air pollution from gas cooking, with recommendations to help the UK transition to cleaner, electric alternatives.’

More than half the homes in the UK cook on gas which is known to emit carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ultra fine particles which can linger indoors for hours after use. 

Computer simulations were run to evaluate the impacts of gas cooking in a variety of typical European kitchen scenarios and the UK kitchen was found to breach recommended levels around 15 times a week. Clasp are currently  in the process of collecting real-time data across Europe to verify these findings.

It is estimated that over 500,000 children in the UK have experienced asthma symptoms in the last year because of gas cookers. While opening some windows might seem the easiest solution, it appears that in 80% of homes in the UK the ventilation is inadequate for this to be of any use. The answer, has to be switching to electricity. 

The report ends with a series of recommendations aimed at the government, industry, Civil Society and Academia, Healthcare Organisations and Professionals and the end users themselves. The most direct recommendation is the first: ‘Phase out the sale of new gas cookers as soon as possible’.

Professor Prashant Kumar, founding Director of the University of Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE), said: ‘Air pollution impacts everyone but is most harmful for vulnerable populations that include babies and children whose immune systems are still developing. The research from CLASP and TNO is consistent with our findings that gas cooking negatively impacts in-kitchen air quality. Electric cooking is the best solution available in the UK to reduce exposure to harmful pollutants released every time we turn on the gas stove.’

CLASP CEO, Christine Egan, said: ‘Few people are aware of the harmful risks posed by gas cooking appliances. Electric appliances significantly reduce exposure risks, but there is no mechanism for buyers to compare the efficiency, performance or safety of gas versus electric hobs or ovens. There is an opportunity to transition to cleaner electrical cooking options that are already affordable and readily available across the UK.’

Larissa Lockwood, Director of Clean Air, Global Action Plan said: ‘It is a myth that gas is ‘natural’ or ‘clean.’ Shamefully, the gas industry has invested heavily in positioning gas as a safe and preferred cooking option. In part because of these efforts, people are genuinely unaware of the health and environmental risks posed by gas cooking, which are well documented through decades of research.

 ‘However, in a cost-of-living crisis it is not realistic to put the onus on the individual to foot the bill of swapping to an electric oven – we need government intervention. Helping UK homes to transition to cleaner, electric alternatives would be an open goal for the Government to hit a triple-win on air pollution, health and climate goals.’


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1 year ago

Are we talking about ovens or hobs here? And central heating boilers don’t count because they send emissions to the outside air? And wood stoves, can they go too, please? It’s not only gas cookers, unhealthy as they are, that are making the air bad. And not everyone can afford a new electric oven and hob.

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