We’ve all heard the dangers of passive smoking — especially around children — but it’s unlikely that you’ve heard about the dangers of cooking with gas. Specifically, the impact that cooking with gas can have on your children, and their health.
According to a new report from the Climate Council, which focused upon Australia’s reliance on gas, it was found that “a child living with gas cooking in the home faces a comparable risk of asthma to a child living with household cigarette smoke.” Yes, the health risk of gas cooking is comparable to the health risk of secondhand smoke.
“The impact of gas in the home on childhood asthma is very significant. Using a gas stove indoors without proper ventilation can have a comparable impact on childhood asthma to the impact of living in a household with a smoker,” the report reads.
In fact, cooking with gas is estimated to be responsible for up to 12% of childhood asthma. When compared to children who didn’t live in homes with gas cooktops, these children were 32% more likely to develop asthma.
If you’re wondering exactly why this is, it’s due to the fact then when burned, natural gas releases contaminants including nitrogen dioxide and certain forms of particulate matter (PM2.5) — which can increase the risk of childhood asthma.
And as for why people aren’t aware of the issue? CEO of Asthma Australia, Michelle Goldman, told The Age that it’s because “It’s odourless, it’s invisible, it’s a bit of a silent enemy.”
It’s not entirely doom and gloom though — there are measures that can be immediately taken to reduce some of the risks. This includes better ventilation in places that use gas cookers — like modern extraction fans, opening windows, ensuring the proper servicing of existing appliances.
Long-term, it does involve switching to electric alternatives; a move the report “strongly encourages” and says should happen when existing appliances “reach the end of their life, if not sooner.”
This isn’t something where the responsibility relies wholly on the individual using it; the report urges state governments to phase out gas connections. Not only does this involve phasing out gas connections in new residential developments, but also providing incentives for places to do so, and subsidies for low-income households to do so — the latter of whom are “more exposed to the harmful effects of gas appliances,” according to the Climate Council’s website.