Gas stoves are a health problem. Could warning labels help?

California, New York, and Illinois lawmakers have introduced bills to put warning labels on gas stoves, which can emit unsafe levels of indoor air pollution.
By Akielly Hu

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A pan sits on flames burning on a natural gas-burning stove
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A growing body of research documenting air pollution exposure from gas stoves has spurred efforts to regulate or even ban the appliances. Now consumer advocates and state lawmakers across the country are trying a new tack: forcing companies to put warning labels on gas stoves.

Proposed legislation in California, New York, and Illinois this year, as well as a recent lawsuit against GE Appliances, asks manufacturers to warn customers of exposure to harmful air pollutants produced by gas stoves. Consumer advocates say that even as scientific research increasingly confirms those health harms, too many consumers remain unaware of the risks of gas stoves, which are found in around one-third of U.S. homes.

Public awareness is growing, but there’s still a pretty large gap,” Abe Scarr, the energy and utilities program director of the Public Interest Research Group, told Canary Media. A warning label is one of the ways that we can better ensure that consumers understand the risks.”

The push for warning labels comes amid a broader movement to eliminate fossil fuels from homes entirely. Gas stoves account for only 0.1 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but they’ve been a cornerstone of decades-long marketing campaigns by the gas industry — and keeping them requires the maintenance of gas lines that support other, more carbon-intensive uses like home heating.

More worrying are their health risks, which are now well established in scientific literature. Researchers have found that gas stoves emit nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and the carcinogen benzene, among other air pollutants linked to a range of respiratory issues and illnesses like asthma and cancer.

Last month, members of the California Assembly passed a measure that would require gas stoves and ranges sold online after 2024, and sold in a store after 2025, to carry a warning label notifying customers of those health risks. The label would also include ways to lower exposure, such as ventilation.

Similar bills introduced in Illinois and New York failed to progress — but the California measure is now before the state Senate and could go up for a vote by the end of this year.

Industry groups, including the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, have come out in vehement opposition to the California bill. All forms of cooking, regardless of heat source, generate air pollutants, especially at high temperatures,” Jill Notini, spokesperson for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, told the Associated Press. Adding yet another label to gas cooking products does not address the overall concern of indoor air quality while cooking.”

The Public Interest Research Group, which backed both the Illinois and California bills, has also filed a lawsuit against GE Appliances, claiming that the company violated a consumer protection law in the District of Columbia by failing to notify customers of the health risks associated with gas stoves. The group tested two of the company’s gas stove models and found that both produced nitrogen dioxide emissions exceeding safe levels determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Canadian federal health agency Health Canada, and the World Health Organization.

A class-action lawsuit filed last month against the Northeast utility Eversource Energy arrives at a similar claim: that the company failed to accurately represent the harms of gas stoves by advertising gas as safe” and clean.”

Rob Jackson, a professor at Stanford University who studies pollution exposure from gas stoves, told Canary Media that decades of research have made clear the link between nitrogen dioxide emissions and asthma. But in recent years, there’s been a firestorm of interest” in researching pollution exposure from gas stoves in particular — and as a result, scientific knowledge on the issue is growing increasingly sophisticated.

We as a field are moving from understanding how much pollution is emitted by gas stoves to how much pollution people are breathing,” he said.

Several studies from the past few years have illuminated the consequences of that exposure. A 2022 study attributed 12.7 percent of all childhood asthma cases to gas stove use. Another last year found that cooking on a gas stove can release more of the cancer-causing chemical benzene than secondhand smoke. And researchers in Boston recently found that unburned gas in stoves and pipelines can leak 21 different hazardous air pollutants into homes.

Just last month, Jackson and other researchers at Stanford published a study that found nitrogen dioxide pollution from gas stoves drifts from the kitchen to bedrooms and can linger for hours. Long-term exposure to those higher levels of nitrogen dioxide alone could account for around 50,000 cases of current pediatric asthma. The study also found that people living in smaller homes and American Indian, Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic households were exposed to significantly more pollution than the average household.

The findings underscore how emissions from gas stoves present a major health inequity and environmental injustice, Jackson said. We’ve underestimated the consequences for people.”

Akielly Hu is a freelance climate reporter and a former news and politics fellow at Grist.