How to protect the public from the impacts of gas cooking

Ben Hudson, Head of Insight and Engagement at Global Action Plan, highlights the health, environmental and economic risks of gas cooking and actionable solutions for the UK

Gas stoves are a triple threat: bad for our health, the environment and the economy.

Gas cookers release dangerous levels of pollutants into homes on a daily basis, leading to significant health impacts and societal costs, yet only 40% of UK citizens are aware of the risk.

A new study from CLASP reveals that household gas cooking appliances can expose millions of people in the UK to levels of indoor air pollution that breach national and international regulations. With more than half of UK homes cooking on gas, that equates to over 36 million people in the UK.

When in use, gas hobs and ovens emit carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ultrafine particles, which can linger inside for hours after use.

Indoor air pollution can cause non-communicable diseases

Research indicates that exposure to indoor air pollution leads to non-communicable diseases, including stroke, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer.

Gas cooking further undermines the UK’s goals of becoming a net zero economy by 2050. With around 54% of UK households cooking on gas, cooking alone accounts for around 2% of the UK’s total carbon emissions -United.

As a fossil fuel, burning gas during cooking emits both CO2 and unburned methane, two potent greenhouse gases. Even when turned off, gas hobs give off methane – the main component of fossil gas used for cooking, which can warm the Earth more than 80 times more than the same amount of carbon dioxide over a period of 20 years.

The economic and social burden of air pollution is also significant. CLASP estimates that indoor air pollution from gas cooking costs the UK around £1.4billion a year in healthcare costs, including shorter life expectancy, illness, higher health and lower productivity. There is also evidence linking combustion-related air pollution to adverse health effects on brain development in young children.

Image: © SolStock | iStock

Government inaction means gas cookers will ruin our lives for years to come

Despite the health and environmental risks of gas cooking, UK policy does not currently support a switch to gas cooking. While the health risks of air pollution have been widely explored and made public, the relationship between gas cooking and indoor air quality has yet to receive the same level of public awareness or awareness. political attention.

The study determined that there is a significant but solvable public health and environmental problem and that the UK government has a political opportunity to switch to cleaner alternatives, but is not acting.

While boilers sold in the UK have set NO2 emission limits and incentives are available to switch to more efficient and climate-friendly heat pumps, no such policy exists for boilers. cooking.

Activists want more action

We need government intervention. Helping UK households switch to cleaner electric cooking appliances would be an open target for the government to achieve a triple win on air pollution, health and climate targets.

Health and environmental groups, including the Global Action Plan, are calling on the UK government to implement policy measures and interventions to help the UK switch to cleaner alternatives and protect public health. These include:

  • Pass laws to protect consumers by setting limits on polluting emissions from gas cooking appliances and ensuring that hobs and ovens are efficient.
  • Providing a new energy label allows people to directly compare the efficiency and emissions of gas and electric cooking appliances.
  • Accelerate the transition to cleaner electric cooking by linking heating and home improvement incentives with electric cooking appliances.

What can you do to protect yourself in the meantime?

It is incumbent on the government to act, as it is unrealistic to expect individuals to foot the bill for switching to electric cookers, especially in a cost of living crisis. The report therefore also offers advice for individuals on how to lessen the impact of gas cooking. These include:

Properly ventilate kitchens when cooking, preferably with a functioning extractor hood vented to the outside, by mechanical ventilation or by opening windows during cooking.
Installation of a low concentration carbon monoxide detector in the kitchen and annual gas safety check on gas hobs and ovens.

Switch from gas to electric cooking when and where possible, including using small plug-in appliances if they cannot switch to electric hobs and ovens.

This article was written and provided by Ben Hudson, Head of Insight and Engagement at Global Action Plan.

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