Air Quality,  Appliances,  Chemicals,  Electromagnetic Frequency,  Healthy Home,  Kitchen

Can I use a gas stove and have a healthy home?

Humans have relied on fire as a primary heating and cooking source since animal paintings adorned our cave walls. The purpose and need for fire is deeply rooted in our evolution, and for some folks, a house is not a home without it. However, an open flame in a tightly sealed home has drawbacks. 

Over the past 50 years, the increase in energy efficient practices has reduced the amount of fresh air freely flowing through a building.

Before the mid 20th century, homes were drafty as air flowed through cracks and crevices that would expand and shrink with weather and age. Drafty homes had the benefit of natural air exchange, but heating an old home on a cold and windy day was challenging.

In new energy efficient buildings, joints and cracks are covered and filled with insulation and expandable materials. A tightly sealed building is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. However, a well sealed building requires a mechanical ventilation system to supply fresh air and remove polluted exhaust through an air exchanger. If a building does not have adequate air exchange, health issues can arise and cause a condition known as sick building syndrome.

Cooking in an energy efficient building introduced new challenges.

As food cooks it releases steam and volatile organic compounds into the air. When you add a combustion element like gas, the VOC’s and their toxicity increases. Natural gas and propane may contain impurities like PCBs, dioxins and heavy metals. These chemicals along with the release of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, from the combustion process, can cause an array of health conditions including bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer. Pregnant women, children, and those struggling with a chronic disease or are chemically sensitive are the most at risk with exposure.

Does this mean a gas stove is out of the question in a healthy home? Not necessarily. 

When designing a healthy home it is important to understand each health condition, circumstance and preference of the person or persons who will occupy the home.  If an occupant has a medical condition, is pregnant or very young, has asthma, allergies, chemical sensitivities, unexplained symptoms or they do not tolerate smoke, combustion, or gas products well; then a gas stove will likely be a no go.

It is also important to consider the type of home and the placement of the kitchen. Removing cooking particulates in an open floor plan presents a greater challenge than in an enclosed kitchen. A kitchen open to the rest of the home will allow air to move throughout the building with ease. Even with a good kitchen vent, particulates and smells will infiltrate other parts of the home.

If you do decide to use a gas stove; it is important to clean, service and maintain the unit to ensure the gas lines and burners are operating efficiently and effectively. The flames on a gas stove should be blue. If you see orange flames or smell gas, these are indications the gas is not burning efficiently and the stove needs repair. Incomplete combustion can release up to 30 times more carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. A gas leak is also a dangerous fire and health hazard. It is not uncommon for an unexplained health issue to be tied to a small, unnoticed gas leak.

What about an electric stove and oven?

The most common alternative to a gas stove is an electric stove. However, for those who are sensitive to electromagnetic frequencies, an electric stove may not be tolerated well. Electric stoves can emit high levels of EMF and the close proximity while cooking is a concern. In this case a gas stove may be the better choice.

When cooking in an oven, the distance between the occupant and the electrical source can be more favorable. Electrical components in an oven are often in the rear or bottom of the unit, and food in an oven does not need to be monitored as closely as food on a stove. This means a gas stove and electric oven combination may test well for a sensitive individual. In that case, a combination unit may be the best option to reduce combustion particulates, while mitigating EMF exposure.

How do I maintain a healthy home while cooking?

Every kitchen with a stove; gas or electric, should have a hood over the unit that is vented to the outdoors. The hood should be at least as wide as the stove or better yet, slightly larger. Each kitchen should also have a fresh air source. The source can operate mechanically with the exhaust fan or be an open window to allow fresh air in as cooking air is expelled.

Most importantly, the hood vent and fresh air source must be used with diligence. Before the cooking process begins, windows and vents should be opened and turned on, then left on for the duration of the cooking session and for a period of time after the cooking process is complete. However, we have found that a kitchen hood vent can be a source of friction in some homes. Builder grade hoods and vent units in over-the-stove microwaves are often quite noisy. This can create an uncomfortable family issue, especially in an open floor plan where TV, gaming, sleeping or relaxing areas are adjacent to a noisy kitchen. When purchasing a hood vent look for the quietest decibel rating available, under 45 decibels is preferable for most open plan homes.

When designing your healthy home and kitchen, all of the elements going into the space must be carefully considered. Gas or electric stove, open or closed floor plan, sound decibels, use and maintenance of the equipment and more must be taken into consideration when creating a healthy and balanced home.

Not sure the best option for your home? Schedule a free consultation.

Resources:

Healthy Living Spaces, Stih, 2009.

Toxic Home Conscious Home, Brown, 2018

Prescription for a Healthy House, Baker-Laporte, Banta 2022

Kristina is a Licensed Interior Designer and Certified Health and Wellness Coach. Her passion and dedication to healthy living and the environment began in college as her own health declined. For her, the toxicity of the air, water, food, electromagnetic radiation, building and consumer products found and consumed in our homes and businesses became evident. Kristina realized these issues play a key role in her health and the declining health of our society. Through years of experience and research Kristina has obtained a wealth of knowledge. As the ‘canary in the coal mine’, Kristina has learned firsthand the importance of putting wellness first when creating a balanced and beautiful environment.

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