Gas stoves are making your child sick – and most Aussies don’t know about it

Jarrod
By Jarrod
5 Min Read

Cities across the country are phasing out gas stoves from being installed in new builds – but most Aussies are confused about why. 

While gas stoves have been a staple of Aussie homes for decades, several studies have concluded that cooktops actually release pollutants that contribute to illnesses, namely the development of childhood asthma.

Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in December last year found that 12.7 per cent of childhood asthma cases in the USA are attributed to gas stove use, which the authors said was comparable to secondhand smoking.

The Australian Journal of General Practice said the negative effects were a result of nitrogen dioxide, an airway irritant that is a byproduct of gas stoves burning methane.

“(Nitrogen dioxide) is a respiratory irritant that can directly cause airway constriction and sensitisation to allergens,” read the report.

“In population studies, it is associated with both the development of asthma and asthma attacks.”

After commissioning a poll that found only 32 per cent were aware of the health risks of gas stoves, The Climate Council launched a campaign earlier this year calling on state and territory governments to help facilitate households make the switch to all-electric appliances.

Since then, we’ve seen a number of supporters jump behind the cause. Companies like Lendlease, one of Australia’s largest property developers, have endorsed the switch and announced in December 2022 that it will stop piping gas into the kitchens of new properties by 2030. 

In the same month, Sydney’s Waverley Council implemented a new policy banning the installation of gas appliances in new homes.

“The Waverley Development Control Plan 2022 requires all-electric cooking and heating systems in new homes (including alterations and additions),” said the council. 

“The installation of new gas appliances is not permitted.

A few months later, the ACT became the first Australian state or territory to legislate a ban, with the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Natural Gas Transition) Amendment Bill 2022 prohibiting gas appliances in new developments from late 2023.

Victoria followed suit in July 2023, when Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced residential planning permits approved from the beginning of 2024 will only allow electrical connections.

The City of Sydney and the City of Melbourne have also jumped on board with a recent agreement to phase out all fossil fuel use in their buildings by 2040 after becoming supporters of the Global Cooksafe Coalition (GCC).

Why are we just finding out about this? 

While the US study is relatively new, Australian researchers have known about the effects of gas stoves since 2018, with a study by the University of Queensland making similar findings.

“We found that 12 per cent of childhood asthma is attributable to exposure to gas stoves used for cooking, and eight per cent is linked to household dampness,” lead researcher Dr Luke Knibbs said when announcing his study.

“Cooking with gas releases chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde, which causes inflammation in the airways and exacerbates asthma.

“The prevalence of asthma in Australia is among the highest in the world, and it’s a leading cause of illness in children.

“With 38 per cent of Australian homes using natural gas for stovetop cooking, this is a common problem.

What can you do to reduce the risks? 

While the obvious option is to replace your gas stove with an electric alternative, there are a number of ways households can combat the negative effects of gas stoves. 

In his study, Dr Luke Knibbs said that by installing “high-efficiency range-hoods”, Aussies could reduce the amount of childhood asthma associated with gas stoves from 12 per cent to just three per cent. 

“The preferred option is to make sure the range-hood is vented outdoors, rather than a hood that recirculates the air,” he said. 

“Even in homes without a range-hood, opening windows during and after cooking can help reduce exposure.

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Jarrod
By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.