Is Your Propane Stove Safe to Use?
Written on: December 11, 2023
Making sense of the gas stove debate.
In the last year, you might have heard that gas stoves can be dangerous, negatively impacting indoor air quality. This issue has prompted some state governments to discuss banning certain cooking appliances from new construction. Other states are passing “preemption laws” to prevent bans.
Where did this sudden debate over gas staves originate?
Earlier in 2023, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sought public input on hazards associated with gas stoves. The CPSC is the government agency tasked with reducing the risk of injuries and deaths related to faulty consumer products. This is the extent of federal action on gas stoves. You don’t need to worry about the U.S. government confiscating your stove.
Let’s take a moment to consider some of the studies that have drawn links between cooking with gas and respiratory issues — and separate fact from conjecture.
”Gas Stoves” and Propane Stoves
In December 2022, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study that concluded that “12.7% of current childhood asthma nationwide is attributed to gas stove use.”
Like many such studies, this one confines its description to “gas stoves.” But a natural gas stove is much different from one fueled by propane.
Methane Leaks and Other Concerns
An earlier study from researchers at Stanford focused on 53 natural gas stoves, all of which leaked methane, even when turned off. It also noted, “In addition to methane emissions, co-emitted health-damaging air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) are released into home air and can trigger respiratory diseases.”
Methane may be a significant concern with natural gas stoves since natural gas primarily comprises methane. But there is no methane in propane, so you don’t need to worry about it with a propane range or oven.
Nitrogen dioxide has been shown to contribute to breathing problems like asthma. A 2016 study at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that boiling water on a natural gas stove produces nearly twice the amount of nitrogen dioxide than the outdoor standard established by the EPA. Again, this is a serious concern for natural gas stoves, which are used in roughly one-third of U.S. homes.
It’s also worth noting that the research on this topic is far from closed. A Lancet Respiratory Medicine abstract found “no evidence of an association between the use of gas as a cooking fuel and either asthma symptoms or asthma diagnosis.”
The Issue of Particulate Matter (and Ventilation)
Another worry is particulate matter, microscopic solids or liquid droplets that can be inhaled and cause health problems. Particulate matter exists with all cooking, whether you’re talking about a gas range or an electric stove. Even a toaster oven can produce particulate matter.
That’s why it’s crucial that you properly ventilate your cooking area with a stove hood or, at minimum, an open window.
The Question of Electric Stoves
Homes and professional chefs alike tend to prefer the high performance and efficiency of propane stoves. Propane flames quickly generate a lot of heat, and you can adjust a propane stove’s temperature with incredible precision. Once you’re done cooking, your range will cool quickly after the flame goes out.
That is not the case with electric stoves, which can remain extremely hot long after you’re through cooking. Moreover, a National Fire Protection Association study found that electric ranges cause household fires at a rate 2.6 times greater than gas ranges, civilian injuries at a rate 4.8 times higher, and civilian deaths at a rate 3.4 times higher.