For what seemed like the longest time, you couldn’t watch an episode of HGTV without hearing mention of a “chef’s kitchen” or “designer kitchen” featuring a gas stove (usually stainless steel). This appliance became synonymous with the idea of an upscale, efficient culinary space. And so, for many years, it remained a highly requested option in new homes — meaning many of us have them in ours. However, a recent uptick in headlines about the potential dangers of gas stoves to children probably has you wondering if it’s time to rip that thing out and replace it with something electric. How do you keep your children safe if you still have a gas stove?
In April 2022, several scientists and researchers who’d conducted studies about the dangers of gas stoves went public with their decisions to remove the appliance from their homes. The reason? These stoves constantly leak a little methane (even when turned off), polluting household air with nitrogen oxides and other dangerous gases. As if the mere sound of that isn’t scary enough, research shows this indoor air pollution can damage lungs — especially kids’ lungs. In fact, a new study linked nearly 13% of current childhood asthma cases in the country to gas stove use. All of this information was enough for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to declare in January 2023 that it intends to strengthen voluntary safety standards on new gas stoves.
There are many reasons someone may or may not have a gas stove over other alternatives. No judgment if you do! For many of us, it all boils down to budget. But if you’re worried about keeping your little ones safe around a gas stove, these practical tips should help.
Why is all of this just coming to light now?
It’s not uncommon for safety concerns over a product to shift over time as safety standards evolved. If you grew up in the ‘90s, you know a ton of the toys we played with are now deemed downright dangerous.
Gas stoves have long been touted for having more precise control over the temperature setting than you’d find with an electric stove. They also heat up more quickly, and in many cases, cook food more evenly. But with concerns growing over the years, the cons have begun to outweigh the pros.
“Our knowledge of the health impacts of outdoor NO2 has grown dramatically in the last 10 years, and we have found that it is much more of a health risk than perhaps we previously thought,” Josiah Kephart, an assistant profession in the department of environmental and occupational health at Drexel University, told Scientific American.
If you’re wondering how something still so widely marketed (and that you may have paid a lot of money for) could possibly pose such a threat, consider this: According to Scientific American, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates outdoor NO2 emissions to ensure safe exposure limits are followed, but there isn’t any similar regulation for indoor exposure.
What are other possible dangers of cooking with gas stoves around kids?
In addition to the growing environmental and health concerns over air pollutants emitted when cooking on a gas stove, parents should be mindful of:
- Exposure to carbon monoxide
- Burns from touching the flame or heated surface
- Burns from spills
- Accidentally turning on a gas stove
How can you keep your kid safe around your gas stove?
Whether you recently purchased a gas stove or inherited one when you bought your house, you may be cooking with gas for a hot minute. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to minimize risks for little ones.
Keep reading for practical ways you can protect your little ones from kitchen hazards when cooking with a gas stove.
- Purchase — and use! — a carbon monoxide detector.
- Always use your overhead vent/hood fan (ideally one that vents to the outside). This will help ventilate your kitchen and reduce exposure to off-gassing and nitrogen oxides. Seriously, use the vent every single time, even if you’re just boiling something.
- You can open kitchen windows while cooking as well.
- Find ways to minimize usage where possible. Need boiled water for tea or a bottle? You can get an affordable electric kettle on Amazon. Craving an all-star breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon? An electric griddle can handle it all.
- Invest in an air purifier. While air purifiers can’t remove all pollutants, they do improve indoor air quality — and every little bit helps. Opt for one with a high clean air delivery rate (CADR) for best results.
- Cook using the back two burners when possible to avoid kids reaching up and grabbing a hot pan.
- If you’re cooking a meal and need to use the front two burners, be sure to turn the pot handles towards the back of the stove.
- Make sure kids always use pot holders or oven mitts when handling hot pans.
- Use child-proof covers on the stove knobs to prevent kids from accidentally turning on a burner.
- Or remove stove knobs completely and store them in a cabin up out of reach when your stove is not in use.
Finally, keep in mind that many respected medical and scientific resources do recommend swapping out your gas stove for an electric one when your budget allows. Good excuse for a mini-reno?