Why Gas Stoves are in “Hot” Water

Ordinarily I write about how toxic chemicals get into your food. How you cook also matters— your greatest potential exposure to toxic fumes occurs when cooking on a gas stove, barbecuing, or, sadly, roasting marshmallows or other goodies over a campfire. I’ll address barbecuing later and, unless you cook over a campfire a lot, that’s unlikely to be a problem for your overall health though it can cause problems for people with respiratory issues. So, I’ll focus this post on the toxic emissions from gas stoves, which many people use frequently. (photo, Pixabay)

I used to love my gas stove, mostly because I hated cooking on the old electric element stoves that were slow to warm and slow to cool. You had more control over the heat while cooking with gas. But times have changed, and induction stoves have arrived—think Jetson’s space age technology versus Flintstones-era gas stoves. Induction stoves are not only a vast improvement over electric element stoves and more energy efficient (90% of heat is transferred to food versus ~74% for electric and 40% for gas)1, they’re also much nicer to use than gas in a couple of ways. One, they heat quickly and cool quickly but don’t scorch your food the way cooking over a flame does (e.g. oatmeal). Most importantly, an induction stove won’t fill your home and lungs with toxic fumes.

As reported recently, cooking with gas generates toxic fumes linked to health issues like asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.2-5 Researchers have measured levels of the combustion byproduct NOx (nitrous oxides) inside homes with gas appliances at levels much higher than allowed outdoors.6 A scientist named Michael Thomas did an experiment in his own home and discovered that his gas stove and furnace were emitting levels of NOx at 50 and 10 times WHO health guidelines, respectively.7 Apparently, the gas industry and some health professionals have known about this problem for decades8 but this information only hit the news big time over the last few months. As a result, the gas industry has been on a high gear PR disinformation campaign, as well as paying influencers to muddy the waters.9 Beware of alarmist or pro-gas pundits—no one’s coming to take your gas stove away unless you want them to.

The best option for your health is to replace your gas appliances with electric versions, like the induction stove I recently bought to replace my gas one. But that can be expensive and out of reach for renters. (Don’t forget to factor in state, local, and FEDERAL rebates.) So, what can you do if you can’t replace your gas stove? I bought a portable induction stove top last spring to use until I could afford to replace the gas stove. Those cost ~$100-200 and don’t require a visit from an electrician to install an outlet. You can also use an electric kettle to heat water for coffee and tea, as well as a toaster oven, air fryer, Instapot, or microwave oven for cooking whenever possible. If you must use the gas stove and oven, make sure your exhaust fan ventilates to the outside or open a window while cooking. Exhaust fans work best when you’re cooking directly beneath them, and their fan is loud enough to make carrying on a conversation difficult.10

Though most pots and pans work on a gas or the old electric element stoves, you do need pans with enough iron in them to work on electromagnetic induction stoves. The cheapest pans that work are iron skillets. Stainless steel also works. Just check your pans with a refrigerator magnet to see if they’re compatible with an induction stove. If your favorite pan doesn’t work, you can get an induction converter heat diffuser for about $20 to use between it and the induction surface.

Here’s wishing you happy and less toxic cooking!

Articles cited


  1. Sweeney, M. et al. 2014. “Induction cooking technology design and assessment.” EPRI.
  2. Gruenwald, T. et al. 2023. “Population attributable fraction of gas stoves and childhood asthma in the United States.” Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 20:75.
  3. Lebel, E. D., et al. 2022. “Composition, emissions, and air quality impacts of hazardous pollutants in unburned natural gas from residential stoves in California.” Environ. Sci. Technol. 56:15828-38.
  4. Michanowicz, D. R. et al. 2022. “Home is where the pipeline ends: Characterization of volatile organic compounds present in natural gas at the point of the residential end user.” Environ. Sci. Technol. 56:10258-10268.
  5. Zhu, Y. et al. April 2020. “Effects of residential gas appliances on indoor and outdoor air quality and public health in California.” Report by researchers at the UCLA Fielding Schoolf of Publich Health Department of Environmental Health Sciences prepared for the Sierra Club.
  6. Lebel, E. D., et al. 2022. “Methane and NOx emissions from natural gas stoves, cooktops, and ovens in residential homes. Environ. Sci. Technol.56:2529-39.
  7. Thomas, M., January 2, 2023. “How bad is my gas stove (Part Two).” Carbon Switch newsletter.
  8. Drilled Podcast, January 27, 2023. “Gas knew, too.”
  9. Leber, R. January 11, 2023. “The gas stove regulation uproar, explained.” Vox.
  10. Delp, W. W., and Singer, B. C. 2012. “Performance assessment of U.S. residential cooking exhaust hoods.” Environ. Sci. Technol.46:6167-73.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: