gas stove

Amid growing research showing the climate and health risks of gas stoves, some advocates and experts want a ban on new fossil fuel-powered appliances.

(Photo: Andrea Todaro/EyeEm)

Industry Knew—and Hid—Dangers of Gas Stoves Over 50 Years Ago

"What? They knew? Next you're going to tell me that ExxonMobil knew about climate change and that the tobacco companies knew cigarettes caused cancer," one Democratic senator sarcastically said.

Newly uncovered documents published last week by DeSmog reveal that the leading gas industry trade group knew over 50 years ago that cooking with gas stoves could harm human health and tried to cover up the evidence.

The DeSmogrevelations regarding the American Gas Associationn (AGA) came as the gas industry is pushing back against climate and public health advocates' efforts to ban new gas stoves amid mounting scientific evidence that the appliances threaten the warming planet and people's health.

Rrcent studies—which, among other things, showed that nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ultrafine particles produced by gas stoves cause a range of health problems, including 1 in 8 U.S. cases of childhood asthma—sparked fast and furious backlash from the gas industry and its congressional boosters.

"It's less widely known that the gas industry has long sponsored its own research into the problem of indoor air pollution from gas stoves," wrote DeSmog's Rebecca John. "Now, newly discovered documents reveal that the American Gas Association was studying the health and indoor pollution risks from gas stoves as far back as the early 1970s—that they knew much more, at a far earlier date, than has been previously documented."

According to John:

More than 50 years ago, in 1972, AGA authored a draft report highlighting indoor air pollution concerns similar to those being raised by health experts and regulators today. In particular, this draft report examined what to do about problems related to the emission of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides (collectively referred to as NOx) from domestic gas appliances. This draft, recently discovered in the U.S. National Archives, would eventually become an official report published by the National Industrial Pollution Control Council (NIPCC), a long-forgotten government advisory council composed of the nation's most powerful industrialists.

However, an entire section detailing those concerns, entitled "Indoor Air Quality Control," vanished from the final report. With it went all the important evidence that the gas industry was not only conducting research into what the NIPCC called the "NOx problem" but also that it was actively testing technological solutions "for the purposes of limiting the levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in household air."

"Instead," John wrote, "the final report argued gas' sole drawback was its limited availability, 'not its environmental impact.' It also lobbied for a massive expansion of U.S. domestic gas reserves and the rapid rollout of gas-based infrastructure, under the banner of replacing coal with gas to stem air pollution."

Reacting to the DeSmog report, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) sardonically tweeted: "What? They knew? Next you're going to tell me that ExxonMobil knew about climate change and that the tobacco companies knew cigarettes caused cancer."

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