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Now we’re cooking with gas | Notes on the Valley | Monith Ilavarasan

As I’ve gotten more into cooking over the past few years, I’ve fallen in love with gas stoves. After years of using old electric stoves I felt like my eyes were really opened when I started cooking with gas.

Cooking over a flame allowed me to have tight control over the temperature along with visual and audio clues as to the heat I was working with. The electric stoves I’ve used in the past took forever to get to temperature and felt like they stayed at their maximum heat forever.

I finally understood why the phrase now we’re cooking with gas symbolized progress and efficiency.

I’ve heard murmurs in the past about how gas stoves have some negative externalities but I’ve always brushed it aside. Recently however, they’ve been in the news quite a bit.

Cooking with natural gas does have some environmental costs. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, and burning it releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which directly contributes to climate change.

Looking deeper, it turns out that gas stoves are responsible for 0.12% of all greenhouse gas emissions in America. Given this, it feels like there are many things that we could focus on that would have a higher impact on climate change than gas stoves.

The one thing that did give me pause is the potential negative health implications of using gas in the home. Researchers have been studying & publishing on the implications of using gas stoves in homes for decades. The big takeaway from many of these studies is that gas stoves produce unsafe levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which are leading contributors to respiratory illnesses like asthma.

A peer-reviewed study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last year purports that gas-burning stoves in kitchens across America are responsible for roughly 12.7 percent of childhood asthma cases nationwide — on par with the childhood asthma risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke.

Another study conducted in California estimated that each year California gas appliances and infrastructure leak the same amount of benzene as is emitted by nearly 60,000 cars. Long-term exposure to significant amounts of the chemical can increase the risk of blood disorders and certain cancers such as leukemia.

These studies are all really disappointing. I love gas stoves, but can’t turn off that part in my brain that likes to listen to science. In the future when my partner and I look to have children, it will be difficult to justify the use of gas stoves in our home. While the environmental costs seem minimal in the grand scheme of things, the potential risk to a child’s health seems a bridge too far to cross.

Many regions across the world have come to a similar conclusion. In the United States many states and cities are starting to take steps to phase out gas stoves entirely from new housing construction.

California, New York City, Seattle, Massachusetts, & Vermont have all set aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. As a part of their plan they have started putting in incentives to promote the switching of gas to electric appliances and phasing gas stoves out of new home construction.

My partner’s parents recently got a new fangled induction cooktop with a bunch of features. I used it for the first time last year and I hated it.

I’ve used it more since then and I’ve grown to have a begrudging respect for the device. I don’t feel like one of the chefs from the movie “Chef” but I am able to cook the meals I love just fine. I’m not going to love the future transition to electric induction cooktops immediately, but I’m sure I’ll grow to live with it.

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