Gas cooker warning as new report highlights 'health risks' that could last several hours

A new report suggests that gas cookers should be fitted with health warnings as the appliances fill kitchens with air pollution that breaks recommended safe levels.

Dutch scientists measured the air quality in 276 homes across countries that have large populations cooking on gas, including the UK.

The research team chose homes in which people didn’t smoke, and that were far from busy roads and factories, to reduce the risk of other sources of pollution.

Burning gas to cook food releases pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) that hurt lungs and inflame airways.

Worryingly, the findings revealed that average levels of NO2 were almost twice as high in the homes that use gas for cooking.

More than half of the homes using gas hobs and gas ovens in the experiment breached the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended maximum level of NO2 once a week. 

The researchers explained that pollution spikes in homes cooking on gas could last several hours and were more intense the longer the cooking time was.

Kitchens with extractor fans didn’t clear much pollution, perhaps because of improper use, the team suggested.

Currently, around 54 percent of British homes use gas and there are no UK policies to tackle the health risks of gas cooking.

Nicole Kearney, CLASP Europe Director, said: “Our research reveals the severity of air pollution caused by gas cooking appliances in homes across Europe. 

“Empowering people with knowledge on the health risks of these products is essential, and they need resources to upgrade to cleaner and healthier hobs and ovens. 

“In turn, governments must protect public health, tackling air pollution at the source and supporting the transition to cleaner cooking.”

The good news is that the report also found that homes using electric appliances didn’t breach the NO2 levels.

Based on these findings, the research team called for a switch to electric cookers.

Piet Jacobs, a scientist from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, said: “Changing to electric cooking – preferably combined with use of well-designed ventilation hoods to reduce exposure to high levels of particulate matter from cooking – can bring these values down to below recommended levels.”

Furthermore, the researchers also recommend that governments strengthen rules on cooking appliances, companies stop making and installing gas hobs and ovens, and consumers upgrade to electric cookers and ventilate their kitchens with cooker hoods and open windows.

The report was commissioned by the non-profit energy efficiency group CLASP and conducted by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research.