Gas cookers 'should come with a health warning': Report reveals the appliances ... trends now
Gas cookers should be fitted with health warnings, according to a report that has found the appliances fill a kitchen with air pollution that breaks recommended safe levels.
More than half of homes using gas hobs and gas ovens in the experiment breached the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended maximum level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) once a week.
Around 54 per cent of British homes cook using gas.
The results would mean that, over a year, one in four British homes would have dirtier air inside than outside the home.
Researchers rigged monitoring equipment in more than 280 homes — 40 in the UK — as well as France , Spain , Italy , the Netherlands , Romania and Slovakia. They found that in normal cooking conditions, more than half of homes (55 per cent) the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended maximum level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was breached in homes using gas hobs and gas ovens around once a week
Levels of NO2 — a gas that can cause asthma — was found to be around twice as high in kitchens and living rooms using gas appliances compared to those using electric appliances, on average, and significantly higher in bedrooms.
But homes using electric appliances did not breach the NO2 level.
The research was commissioned by non-profit energy efficiency group CLASP and conducted by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).
Sensors were placed in 35 British homes, as well as hundreds more in other countries that also have large populations cooking on gas and childhood asthma cases linked to cooking on gas.
Breaching limit values increases health risks.
The research builds on previous findings that shows children in homes with a gas cooking appliance have a 20 per cent increased risk of suffering a respiratory illness, according to the WHO.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a gas mainly produced during the combustion of fossil fuels.
Short-term exposure to concentrations of NO2 can cause inflammation of the airways and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections and to allergens.
NO2 can exacerbate the symptoms of those already suffering from lung or heart conditions.
Pollution spikes in British homes cooking on gas could last several hours and were more intense the longer the cooking time, the researchers said today.
The WHO daily limit was breached for 1.9 of the 13 test days, on average.
Kitchens with extractor fans did not clear much pollution, perhaps because of improper use, according to the researchers.
At present there are no UK policies to tackle the health risks of gas cooking, with binding limits only applying to outdoor air pollution, under the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010.
The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, last year also stated how important regulation is to cut pollution from indoor appliances.
It should be on manufacturers to clean up their products, CLASP said.
Government should phase-out sales of new gas cookers, prevent them being installed in new homes and incentivise consumers to switch to electric cookers.
In the meantime, consumers should be warned about pollution through labelling, it said.
A recent opinion poll by Opinium found up to three quarters of respondents (74 per cent) say they would consider getting rid of their gas appliances due to air pollution.
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.'
TNO senior scientist, Piet Jacobs, said: 'We have measured in our field study that in 25 per cent of the selected British households cooking on gas the EU NO2 limit value for one hour exposure was exceeded. Where outside levels were below these values.
'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.'
The above graph shows the current legal limit for air pollution in the UK (far left) and plans to halve it in England by 2040 (left) to 10mcg/m3. But this is still above the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommended level, which is 5mcg/m3
Professor Frank Kelly of Imperial College London said: 'Gas hobs and ovens are a major source of indoor air pollution, including NO2, which can both exacerbate existing health conditions and potentially lead to new respiratory illnesses.
'For children with asthma, the presence of gas cooking appliances can intensify their symptoms.
'Removing these appliances from our homes will improve indoor air quality and mitigate potential risks to public health.'
The scientists also measured for fine particulate matter. In kitchens, this is caused by outdoor pollution blowing in and food cooking, rather than the appliance fuel source.
The scientists found no significant difference in emissions between homes cooking on gas and electric.
Scientists not involved in the study supported calls for gas cookers to come with a health warning.
Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine, at Queen Mary University of London said: 'Cooking, especially frying, produces significant indoor pollution if not adequately ventilated.
'Cooking with a gas hob also produces nitrogen dioxide which increases children’s risk of developing asthma. Since electric cooking increasingly uses sustainable energy, the gas hob is headed for extinction.
'It is reasonable that new gas hobs come with the warning that they “should only be used with high quality ventilation”.
Peter Chan, Oxford BHF CRE Intermediate Transition Research Fellow, Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford said: 'Indoor air pollution (IAP) is a long-overlooked issue in the UK.
'While much of the existing policies and media focus on outdoor air pollution, IAP could dominate our total exposure because we spend the majority of our time indoors.
'Cooking is a major source of IAP, both from on-site fuel combustion (mostly gas in the UK) and cooking fumes (vaporised aerosol mixture from cooking oil and food).
'It is well-known that gas cooking would result in increased levels of NO2 indoors, and the public should be clearly informed of the associated health