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"Why Gas Stoves are More Hazardous Than We’ve Been led to Believe"

Yifang Zhu, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of environmental health sciences and senior associate dean for academic programs, was quoted by Slate about research examining the health risks of long-term exposure to exhaust from gas appliances

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Date: 
Thursday, December 3, 2020
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As a physician and epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, T. Stephen Jones spent his career fighting major threats to public health in the United States and globally, from smallpox to HIV to viral hepatitis. But it wasn’t until Jones was well into retirement that he learned about a widespread yet widely overlooked health risk in his own home in Florence, Massachusetts, and in most U.S. households: pollution emitted by natural gas appliances.

While many Americans might think illness linked to indoor cooking and heating is a problem confined to smoke-filled kitchens in the developing world, the natural gas-burning stoves and furnaces found in millions of U.S. kitchens and basements can produce a range of health-damaging pollutants, including particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and formaldehyde. Over the past four decades, researchers have amassed a large body of scientific evidence linking the use of gas appliances, especially for cooking, with a higher risk of a range of respiratory problems and illnesses.

Since the publication of two new reports on the subject from the nonprofit research group the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, this past spring, the existence of these gas-fired health hazards has garnered increasing media scrutiny. But less discussed has been how the Covid-19 pandemic has compounded the risks of this pollution, especially for low-income and vulnerable populations, and how key regulatory agencies have lagged decades behind the science in acting to protect them.

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