Multnomah County Health Department report recommends transitioning away from gas stoves over health concerns

November 10, 2022

PORTLAND — Gas stoves release dangerous air pollutants that increase the risk of childhood asthma and other respiratory problems, according to a report released today by the Multnomah County Health Department. To protect public health, improve air quality in homes, and mitigate climate change, the report recommends switching gas stoves and other gas-burning appliances like furnaces with electric alternatives at time of replacement.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners will receive an informational briefing on the report’s findings and recommendations Thursday, Nov. 10, during today’s regular Board meeting. The meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m., can be watched live online.

“Our review of the most recent scientific literature found conclusively that gas stoves are a health hazard — especially for children with growing lungs. To protect against pollution-driven respiratory problems, we recommend a transition away from combusting appliances in favor of healthy electric alternatives whenever possible,” said Nadège Dubuisson, lead author of the report. 

The report’s summary of the most recent health evidence finds that gas stoves release a range of dangerous air pollutants, including high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an air pollutant linked to asthma). According to research from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited in the report, homes with gas stoves have concentrations of NO2 that are 50% to over 400% higher than homes with electric stoves. Children living in homes that cook with gas are 42% more likely to experience symptoms associated with asthma, and they are 24% more likely to be diagnosed with lifetime asthma due to NO2 exposure.

Read the report A Review of the Evidence Public Health and Gas Stoves (1.33 MB).

One in 10 adults in Multnomah County report an asthma diagnosis, making the disease among the most prevalent chronic illnesses in the County. Asthma rates are higher in low-income communities and communities of color, who are more likely to live in places where outdoor air is more polluted, and who are more likely to use gas stoves as supplemental heat sources.

“We are learning more and more each day about indoor air pollution and what we can do to reduce exposures,” said Jessica Guernsey, the County’s Public Health Director. “This report sheds more light on what many of us can do to reduce indoor air pollution. Today’s report is also consistent with the Board’s resolution on clean air in February 2022 as we work to reduce the risks of asthma and other respiratory problems in our community.” 

Beyond reducing exposure to dangerous air pollutants, transitioning households from gas appliances to electric alternatives would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming. 

“As a mom, keeping my family, and all families, safe is a top priority. So when we see evidence that the methane gas we use to cook in our homes is harmful to our health, we need to find ways to curb the risk it poses,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “The good news is that there are tangible steps we can take now to protect ourselves and our families, especially our children. And in the long run, shrinking our dependence on fossil fuels remains the most effective way to protect our air quality, while also mitigating the climate impacts that put our communities at risk today.”

Starting in 2023, households in Multnomah County will be eligible for incentives through the federal Inflation Reduction Act to transition from gas appliances to electric alternatives – including up to $8,000 per household for an electric heat pump, $1,750 for an heat pump water heater, and $840 for an electric stove.

Households that aren’t able to transition from a gas stove can take other steps right now to limit indoor air pollution from cooking. 

As much as possible, use other electric appliances to prepare food, like a crockpot, Instant Pot or a portable induction cooktop, or an electric kettle for boiling water. If you do use your gas stove, cook on the back burners. Using a range hood that vents outdoors, or opening a window while cooking, also can increase air flow and reduce the buildup of indoor air pollution.