United States -- January 12, 2023: Calls for federal housing authorities to remove gas stoves from public housing,
where a majority of households are headed by women, have gained urgency in the wake of a recent study supporting evidence of a link between childhood asthma and gas stovetops.
The report, which was published last week in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,
focuses on one of the main reasons why groups that work for change are so focused on getting rid of gas stoves: Today, exposure to gas stovetops is thought to be the cause of about 13 percent of childhood asthma.
In addition to benzene and nitrogen dioxide, which have been associated to an increased risk of cancer and asthma, gas stoves can release carbon monoxide. Gas stoves are not currently subject to any federal regulations.
Residents who are most at risk from this kind of indoor air pollution might benefit from a focus on electrifying stovetops and other equipment in public housing. Due to a variety of environmental conditions, Black and Latinx children have greater rates of asthma than White children, and they make up a disproportionate number of people living in public housing. Gas stove pollution, especially in public housing where ventilation might be poor and cooking is done in cramped quarters, makes the issue worse.
The targeting of gas stoves in public housing has gender consequences as well: A third of households in public housing are headed by women, who make up 75% of those households.
According to a 2021 World Cooking Index report, women in the US and Canada cook more frequently than men, increasing their exposure to fumes. There is no clear reason why women experience asthma at a rate that is double that of males.
In a public housing development in the South Bronx of New York City, WE ACT for Environmental Justice started a pilot program in 2021.
In collaboration with the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Berkeley Air Monitoring, they switched 10 houses from gas to electric induction stoves and monitored the air quality for ten months. Additionally, they looked at 10 homes that still had gas stoves. 18 of the 20 households that took part in the pilot had female heads of household.
Results will be made public later this month, but Annie Carforo, WE ACT's coordinator for climate justice initiatives, said they were already observing "huge decreases in households' nitrogen
dioxide when you take out a gas stove."