New York became the first state to ban gas stoves after Governor Kathy Hochul struck a budget deal with the state Legislature. Gas hookups will be phased out of construction of new buildings under seven stories by 2026. Taller buildings must meet the regulation by 2029.

Buildings in New York account for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, so electrifying ways to heat, cook, do laundry and other energy intensive behaviors can reduce the state’s contribution to climate change.

WSHU’s J.D. Allen spoke with Dr. Norman Edelman, a pulmonologist, professor of internal medicine and core member of the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook Medicine, about how this will also make homes healthier and safer.

WSHU: Doctor, do gas stoves produce emissions that are harmful to human health?

NE: Yes, they do. Just recently, the professional society of lung physicians, the American Thoracic Society, issued a formal opinion that people with lung disease or people with children in their homes, or may be at risk of lung disease, that is kids who are at risk for asthma because their parents have asthma. These people, they said, should not use gas cooking in their living areas, because they admit irritating fumes that irritate the lungs.

WSHU: What are the pollutants that are toxic or harmful?

NE: There are several gases there, especially the gases that affect climate change. But the major gas that irritates the lungs are the oxides of nitrogen. They are inflammatory; they cause inflammation in the airways.

WSHU: So if you are someone with pre pre-existing respiratory illness — from asthma to something like COPD — by being exposed to these fumes, it can have long-term impacts. These are long-term impacts, right?

NE: Well, we don't know about long-term impacts. We do know about short-term impacts. So if you already have trouble breathing, because, as you say, asthma or COPD, this inflammation of the airways will add to the trouble of breathing, to the extent where it may be noticeable.

There are very few studies about the long-term effects, although there is some evidence in children who are likely to get asthma, that is to say they may have two parents who have asthma, the long term-effect may be to increase the incidence of asthma in these children.

WSHU: Who is most vulnerable to these risks?

NE: I think anybody with chronic lung disease, as you pointed out, especially asthma. Asthma is an inflammation of the airways, you don't want to add to it. And especially COPD, because COPD also involves inflammation of the airways. There are several other chronic lung diseases that should avoid the additional burden of breathing a gas that inflamed the airways.

WSHU: I think people have a very different understanding of their respiratory system due to the COVID pandemic: those who are already susceptible, children, perhaps seniors…

NE: We take the position, those of us who take care of people with lung disease, that the only thing you should ever put in your lungs is pure air or medication, designed to be put in the lungs, and anything else that may be irritating is bad.

You know, I would say that if you have a reasonable alternative, there really is no reason to use gas cooking appliances.

WSHU: The regulation only applies to new construction. Nearly two-thirds of New York homes have a gas stove, cooktop or oven, compared to about a third homes nationwide. What can families do if they have a gas stove?

NE: Well, I think that is a difficult decision, because converting from a gas stove to an electric stove will result in a significant expense. I would say that if you have people in your home that seem especially sensitive, and this would be say an asthmatic child, you should seriously consider converting even though there is an expense involved.

If you're not at risk, then you have to weigh the potential benefits of getting rid of the gas stove against the cost, obviously.

WSHU: Are there techniques that families should use while they have gas appliances in their homes?

NE Absolutely. One of the ways to deal with fumes from the kitchen is to have good ventilation. A good exhaust fan will help significantly.

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