Did you know just under half of all Aussie homes use gas for cooking? Did you also know these stoves are known to produce contaminants that increase the risk of childhood asthma?
Two-out-of-three standalone cooktops are fuelled by either mains-supplied or bottled gas, with the remainder being either old-style coil electric or the more superior electric induction stoves.
The contaminants in gas include nitrogen dioxide and certain forms of particulate matter, like PM2.5 – which is also found in bushfire smoke.
You may not have had a chance to read through the latest report from the Climate Council on how gas is harming our health but it outlines evidence of how the use of gas in homes is dangerous to our health and estimated to be responsible for up to 12 percent of the childhood asthma burden in Australia. What’s alarming is the pollutants produced by gas cooking or heaters are invisible and mostly odourless, making them hard to detect or recognise as a threat to your health.
What does this mean for people with asthma?
Gas stoves and heaters are a major source of indoor air pollution that impacts the human body including the respiratory system. Here’s what you need to know:
- Gas appliances around the home can cause worsening of asthma symptoms in children with asthma
- This is due to the emissions that are produced by gas appliances, which include substances like oxides of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide, as well as some organic compounds
- Like other airborne emissions, these emissions can irritate the airways and trigger asthma symptoms, particularly among children
What can you do about it?
We don’t expect everyone to go ahead and convert all of the gas appliances in their home and replace them immediately with alternatives (maybe over time but not immediately) but for now, there are a few ways you can be on your way to safely manage or kick the gas habit.
1. Take your asthma symptoms seriously
If you or your children experience asthma symptoms, have these reviewed by your doctor and work with the doctor to tailor your asthma treatment according to your condition, aiming for consistently good asthma control. You can access Asthma Action Plan templates via our website to fill in with your doctor, and you may want to speak with one of our Asthma Educators on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) if you have additional questions.
2. We understand that use of gas stoves can be detrimental to health, especially the health of children, especially the health of children with asthma. If you have children with asthma and are able to use an alternative energy source then hot plate technology – particularly a modern induction stove – is recommended as a safer alternative (think of electric fry pans and other cooking alternatives) If you are unable to switch to a safer alternative, there are ways to reduce your children’s exposure to the emissions caused by gas cooking, such as:
3. Always use an extractor fan whenever cooking
- Open windows and try to ventilate your kitchen during and immediately after cooking (this is for cooking in general to reduce the cooking fumes)
- Try to block off the kitchen from the rest of the house, so fumes are less likely to spread
- Rangehoods (extractors) that don’t vent outside can make the problem worse by moving the contaminants around. Avoid using these.
- Try to keep kids away from the kitchen when cooking particularly if cooking with gas appliances
These measures can significantly reduce not only the everyday kitchen hazards but possibly reduce the amount of exposure to nitrogen dioxide. Though these steps will not completely eliminate the gas emissions hazards for yourself and your children, we do encourage you to explore all the options
4. Explore the option of replacing your gas cooking with less emitting appliances
Look at what gas appliances you have in the home and consider what it may take to replace them with alternative options. If you are renting, speak to your real estate agent or landlord to have an effective extractor fan installed. You might also discuss the possibility of replacing the gas cooking appliance with an electric one.
Provide them with a copy of the Climate Council’s report ‘Kicking the Gas Habit’.
5. Good quality food, cooked thoughtfully, contributes to the nutritional health and overall wellbeing of our children and families.
We know eating healthy foods is good for overall health. There is also emerging evidence a balanced diet can lead to improved airway health as well. According to the Australian Asthma Handbook, some observational studies have shown a link between a Mediterranean diet high in fish, fruit, and vegetables and a lower risk of wheeze and asthma in children. In Australia, a study revealed there was a reduced risk of current asthma in children who ate fish regularly, especially oily fish. Think of creative ways of cooking, and get your kids involved to make it fun!
Read more about our involvement here.
Learn more about the health impacts of gas and how it can impact your asthma here.
Asthma Australia is proud to support the Climate Council ‘Kicking the Gas Habit: How Gas is Harming our Health – 2021‘ Report.