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New York Times columnist fearmongers on gas stoves: They 'may be killing you'

Farhad Manjoo's latest column for The New York Times gave a terrifying warning about gas stoves, saying they "may be killing" their owners slowly.

New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo ramped up the fearmongering over gas stoves on Friday, penning a column warning they might be "killing you."

Manjoo's column is the latest in a series of media pieces fretting about gas stoves and wondering whether they should be phased out of peoples' homes for the sake of their health and the environment.

Manjoo's piece, dramatically headlined, "Your Gas Stove May Be Killing You. How Much Should You Worry?" opened with some alarmist imagery, stating, "The natural gas-powered appliances in your home may be slowly killing you and everyone you love. That’s the bad news." He then added, "worse news," saying, "It’s not clear exactly what you should do about it — if anything at all."


The column came out days after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission mentioned that gas stoves may cause respiratory and other health issues. At the time the CPSC commissioner told Bloomberg they were looking at options on dealing with the danger, adding that a gas stove banned could be considered, though the commission later clarified it was not planning for a ban. 

Manjoo detailed the alleged dangers of gas stoves in the piece, stating, "The dangers are well documented. Gas-fired water heaters — even the more efficient, tankless kind — regularly puff out clouds of methane, a greenhouse gas that, in the short term, traps at least 100 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide (per unit)." 

Continuing the dramatic imagery, the columnist said, "Every minute that it’s in your house, even when it’s turned off, your gas stove may be flatulating dangerous pollutants and climate-warming gases into your kitchen." 

He also made reference to a widely cited study claiming, "About 13 percent of cases of childhood asthma in the United States may be attributable to gas cooktops, a recent study found — a population-level effect similar to that of exposure to secondhand smoke."

Other mainstream outlets have been pushing the findings of this study in recent days to spread awareness about these supposed dangers, but critics have raised concerns about its methodology.


The study in the Independent Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, published last month, stated in its abstract, "Indoor gas stove use for cooking is associated with an increased risk of current asthma among children and is prevalent in 35% of households in the United States (US). The population-level implications of gas cooking are largely unrecognized. We quantified the population attributable fraction (PAF) for gas stove use and current childhood asthma in the US… The proportion of children (<18 years old) exposed to gas stoves was obtained from the American Housing Survey for the US, and states with available data… We found that 12.7% of current childhood asthma in the US is attributable to gas stove use."

Among the outlets to boost the study was the Washington Post, which wrote it "adds fuel to a burgeoning debate over the potential threats that gas stoves pose to the planet and public health."

The Washington Post piece touted the study as "peer-reviewed," while quoting pushback from the American Gas Association, the influential trade group, that questioned the study's methodology. The group's president Karen Harbert slammed it as "simple advocacy-based modeling" in remarks to the Post.


It was also cited in an article for CNN's website, and climate correspondent Bill Weir said this week that "the science is showing us having a gas stove, in a small apartment especially with bad ventilation, is like having a car idling there. If you have young kids, it can affect cognitive abilities, as well as asthma."

Emily Oster, an economics professor at Brown University, wrote about the study, concluding its findings were simplistic and amounted to a "multiplication exercise."

"We know that gas stoves emit nitrogen oxides and that, in general, those are not good. We know that air pollution, in general, is bad for respiratory symptoms, including asthma. So it seems very plausible that there is some link here. However: the magnitude is likely small. In most of the estimates, it’s small. And, beyond that, we do not see the kind of smoking gun in any of these data that would suggest a really consistent link," she wrote.

"Another way to put this is that there are clearly many, many factors other than gas stoves that explain asthma."

The writer of the Substack Handwaving Freakoutery also assailed the study for ignoring "confounders," a term in research for an unmeasured variable that could affect a study's findings.

Manjoo's premise prompted him to discuss switching to electric stoves. "So what’s a homeowner to do?" he asked, adding, "If you spend time around environmentalists or energy experts, you’ll hear a simple answer: Electrify! Most gas appliances can now be replaced with healthier and more efficient alternatives powered by electricity."

"Despite growing recognition of the dangers of gas-powered appliances, electrifying our abodes is going to be much slower, more expensive and more complicated than electrifying other parts of our lives," he wrote.

He added, "Houses are like people; they’re all ailing in different ways, and some of them may be just too set in their ways to be rehabilitated."

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