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January 13, 2023

Inside the controversy around gas stoves

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    The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced it is evaluating the "hidden hazard" of gas stoves, signaling the potential for an appliance ban—but following backlash, the commission recently clarified its intentions.

    CPSC is evaluating indoor emissions from gas stoves

    Currently, more than 40 million U.S. households use gas stoves that emit pollutants—including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and fine particulate matter—at levels the Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization deem unsafe.

    According to reports by groups like the Institute for Policy Integrity and the American Chemical Society, these pollutants are linked to respiratory disease, heart issues, cancer, and other medical problems.

    In October, CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka recommended the agency request public comment on the risks associated with gas stoves after pollutants were linked to asthma and respiratory conditions. And last month, Trumka announced that CPSC was launching a formal review process that could result in new regulations for gas stoves.

    "We need to be talking about regulating gas stoves, whether that's drastically improving emissions or banning gas stoves entirely," Trumka said. "And I think we ought to keep that possibility of a ban in mind, because it's a powerful tool in our tool belt and it's a real possibility here."

    Trumka on Monday said CPSC was considering several options to address indoor air pollution from gas stoves, including a ban or standards outlining the level of toxic fumes that can be released into homes.

    "This is a hidden hazard," Trumka said. "Any option is on the table. Products that can't be made safe can be banned."

    Backlash prompts clarification

    In recent weeks, many lawmakers, organizations, and individuals have heavily criticized a potential ban on gas stoves.

    The American Gas Association (AGA) pushed back against the link between gas stove use and asthma. "Any efforts to ban highly efficient natural gas stoves should raise alarm bells for the 187 million Americans who depend on this essential fuel every day," AGA said.

    Separately, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said that any regulation would be "a recipe for disaster."

    "The federal government has no business telling American families how to cook their dinner," said Manchin. "If this is the greatest concern that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has for American consumers, I think we need to reevaluate the commission."

    "Americans should have the ability to choose the most affordable and most available way to cook food in their own home," said Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.).

    "A ban on gas cooking appliances would remove an affordable and preferred technology used in more than 40% of home across the country," said industry spokesperson Jill Notini. "A ban of gas cooking would fail to address the overall concern of indoor air quality while cooking, because all forms of cooking, regardless of heat source, generate air pollutants, especially at high temperatures."

    For consumers who are concerned about gas stoves in their home, there are precautions that can mitigate some of the risk. In particular, Trumka encouraged individuals with gas stoves to check that their exhaust hood is venting to outside their home, rather than being routed back inside.

    "To be clear, CPSC isn't coming for anyone's gas stoves," Trumka tweeted. "Regulations apply to new products. For Americans who CHOOSE to switch from gas to electric, there is support available."

    On Wednesday, CPSC chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric also responded to the backlash, clarifying that the commission would not ban gas stoves, but was investigating health risks associated with gas stoves and possible changes to existing safety standards.

    "I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so," Hoehn-Saric said.

    In addition, CPSC said it does not have immediate plans to propose any regulations. "Any regulatory action by the Commission will involve a lengthy process," a CPSC spokesperson said. In 2023, CPSC staff will gather data on gas stove hazards, with the goal of proposing "solutions to those hazards" later this year. (Schoenberg, Chicago Tribune, 12/17/22; Natter, Chicago Tribune, 1/9; Jordan, Roll Call, 1/11; Natter, Bloomberg/Washington Post, 1/11; Osaka, Washington Post, 1/11; Maruf, CNN, 1/11; Alund, USA Today, 1/11)

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