A big polluter could be blazing inside your kitchen, its blue flames glowing under your tea kettle or frying pan. A new study says cooking with natural gas can expose you to unhealthy levels of air pollution.
About two-thirds of Southern California households that use natural gas burners without proper ventilation breathe levels of air pollution so high that they would exceed federal health standards outdoors, scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found.
Logue is part of a team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who are researching ventilation hoods and developing standards that make them more efficient at removing both grease and pollutants. Right now, ventilation hoods can qualify for the EnergyStar certification program, but that doesn’t measure how effective they are at removing lung-damaging gases from your air. Her team is working on developing a national standard that would measure what percentage of pollutants is removed by the hood.
Even if you do have a powerful ventilation hood, it’s not going to do you much good if it doesn’t vent to the outdoors. While some states, such as California, require that they do vent outside, other states don’t. So you may have what’s called a “recirculating” range hood in your home; those draw air off of the stove, trap grease, and then pump the gas-filled air back into your kitchen.
Luckily, there are simple ways to limit your exposure. First, use a range hood. Even a moderately effective one will substantially cut concentrations of pollutants in your home, researchers said. Cooking on the back burners can help too, because they sit directly under the ventilation system.
“This is not meant to scare people away from cooking,” Logue said. “People are very used to cooking so they don’t think about it. They don’t use their range hood because they don’t consider it a hazard. Our study really looked at that problem and how significant it is.”