What is the statement appliance in today’s kitchen? For many homeowners, it is the professional-looking, gas-fired cooktop, or range. Designers and magazines have been putting forward the notion that the robust-looking gas burners elevate the kitchen to a professional, or “Chef’s Kitchen”. Who wouldn’t want that? Caution. Priority health, healthy living, and natural gas cooking may not go together.
During the research for my book “Kitchen Magic” several years ago, I interviewed a pregnant woman. She mentioned that her sense of smell was heightened during the pregnancy to the point of having the gas to their top-of-the-line commercial range turned off. She described,
“…that simply avoiding the use of the range was not enough to eliminate the gas smell. I called in a plumber to make sure there was no leakage. There was none, yet the gas smell persisted. Only when the gas was turned off entirely did it subside.”
Her statement stayed with me. Could there be negative side effects of cooking with natural gas in our kitchen? In a study on this specific topic, UCLA’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences Research reports
“The indoor air quality analysis found that concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) during cooking events (…with natural gas) can exceed the levels set by national and California-based ambient air quality standards, occurring much more often for NO2 than CO. Under a cooking scenario where the stove and oven are used simultaneously for an hour, acute exposures to NO2 from cooking with gas appliances exceed the levels of national and California-based ambient air quality thresholds in more than 90% of modeled emission scenarios.”
So there it is in black. It supports the sensory observation of this pregnant lady. As the old saying goes: Don’t go against a woman’s intuition. Her instinct with health as a priority to protect and nurture her unborn child appears to be spot on.
Shocking Stats From Cooking With Natural Gas
Consumers want their homes to be more energy-efficient or insulated tighter and it is also required to ever-increasing standards by Building Departments around the country, the lack of natural ventilation is making air quality issues an increasingly bigger issue.
EPA and other national organizations are aware of the gas emissions of gas inner homes. They developed tolerances levels and standards:
How does this apply to everyday cooking and baking in your kitchen with gas appliances? The Rocky Mountain Institute finds these alarming gas emissions. Even boiling water on a gas range exceeds the ppb quotas of all organizations – eye-opening stats!
Gas cooking lovers will likely respond that these are “ppb” is parts-per-billion, or this is a negotiable amount and people have been cooking with gas forever. But, again not in tightly built, ever more energy-efficient homes. The data suggests if you are placing priority on health, cooking with natural gas and an open natural gas flame may be problematic.
Tightly Built Homes – Natural Gas
Yes, insulated homes including Passive Houses, which is the extreme version of insulation, are a good thing for people and for the planet. But there are important details and trade-offs to understand. Insulating foundations, walls, and roofs by themselves are insufficient and not healthy. It does require air ventilation systems to constantly remove exhausted air and replace it with fresh, conditioned air. These so-called ERV and HRV air systems should be the focus of everyone attuned to priority health.
For more insights on how these topics intersect check out SHG Living’s RISE. To see the installation and a presentation on a Zehnder ERV air systems see
SHGLiving’s SabineNewHouse’s The Greenwich House. These air filtration systems have been around in Europe for a long time. They are well-understood though perhaps a bit unfamiliar to average US home builders.
Anyone contemplating building a new home or buying a new home is doing so out of positive motivation, with the goal of living a happy and healthy life. Cooking and living in a great new kitchen is another way of expressing a priority on health. So know the facts. Know what health features to insist on. If cooking with natural gas is still a priority, be sure to install an air filtration system to scrub the air.
Priority Health – Air Filtration Systems
Just when you think your new kitchen complete with this beautiful new gas-powered commercial range will inspire you to prepare sumptuous, healthy meals for your family and friends know of the associated serious air quality issues.
Healthy living and healthy cooking are directly connected. While there is a perception of natural gas as being the best way to cook, the reality is there are real and measurable side effects that should concern us all. Understanding installations from ALL perspectives is important. It should not be taken lightly.
Priority Health – Kitchen Design
While natural gas as a fossil fuel has serious environmental implications, the unhealthy side of burning natural gas in our kitchens and homes should be paid attention to. Let’s understand what we install in our homes. Let’s start priority health-focused conversations for everything we install in our homes. Don’t find out when it’s too late that boiling water on our natural gas-powered stove might have contributed to your compromised health!
Know that there are great options such as induction cooktops, which have been in use in Europe for decades. Don’t just blindly believe the story on natural gas. Understand the very real side effects. It’s all about choices. Make the right selections for you and your family.