Gas stoves and indoor air quality

Recently, I posted a picture on our Facebook page of a combustion analyzer taking a carbon monoxide reading coming out of a gas stove. This was to remind everyone that every gas appliance should be checked yearly. You never know if a gas appliance is running efficiently and safely if you don’t test it. People also assume that you hook up the stove and everything is fine. Gas stoves can be adjusted/tuned for proper operation! Gas stoves create and vent carbon monoxide. It should be tested at start up and yearly after that.

Gas stoves can produce some hefty amounts of carbon monoxide (CO). Also, they are NOT required to be vented outdoors. Pretty crazy, right?! Now, what if you don’t have a range hood or microwave that vents the exhaust gases outdoors? Your indoor air quality greatly suffers. Not only are you breathing CO, but other pollutants as well from the gas being burned.

I have an indoor air quality (IAQ) monitor sitting next to this stove. This monitor lets me view the indoor air quality while the stove is being used. The picture on the left is the air quality before the stove is on. The picture on the right is while the stove is on. The results are alarming when there is no vented (outdoors) hood or microwave. The IAQ monitor gives several readings, temperature; humidity; particulate matter; chemical polluntants; and carbon dioxide. These need be regulated to maintain a healthy home. Let’s dive in to what these numbers mean and how it affects your health and home.

  • Temperature. You want to maintain a certain temperature within your home for optimum comfort.
  • Humidity. You want to keep the humidity level within the home between 30-50%. This ensures the materials of the home, along with the health of its occupants, do not degrade. Too much humidity can produce mold, musty smells, and dust mites.  To little humidity can cause dry skin, increased risk of cold, flu and other infections. Can also cause warping of building materials. Cooking produces humidity from the both the gas burning and the food cooking.
  • Particulate matter. This IAQ monitor measures particulate matter in the air smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter. How small is that? Well, the average human hair is between 50-70 microns in diameter. That’s small! Particulate matter this small can only be seen with a microscope. Particulate matter (PM) is a term used to describe the mixture of solid Particulate particles and liquid droplets in the air. These particulates get deep down into your respiratory system. Burning fossil fuels gives off particulate matter. Studies have found a close link between exposure to fine particles and premature death from heart and lung disease. Fine particles are also known to trigger or worsen chronic disease such as asthma, heart attack, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
  • Carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (Co2) is a gas. Not to be confused with carbon MONoxide (CO) which is a deadly gas. While not directly not an indoor pollutant, it does give an indication if fresh air is needed. Cooking with fossil fuels gives off carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is also generated by humans. We exhaust carbon dioxide. Elevated levels of Co2 can cause drowsiness. Extremely high levels can cause headaches, stagnant, stale, stuffy air; poor concentration, loss of attention, increased heart rate and slight nausea may also be present.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. VOC’s can also come from paints, paint strippers and other solvents, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, moth repellents and air fresheners, stored fuels and automotive products, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, pesticides, and burning of fossil fuels. The health effects due to VOC’s may include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination and nausea, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.
  • Carbon Monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.

Gas stoves produce CO as a byproduct of combustion (fuel burning process). And CO can but introduced into your home if not vented outdoors from the stove. CO has varying health effects. At low concentrations, fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. Can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving home. Fatal at very high concentrations. Acute effects are due to the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake. At moderate concentrations, angina, impaired vision, and reduced brain function may result. At higher concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.

But I have a CO detector. Am I protected? MAYBE!! Most CO detectors are listed to UL standard 2034. This standard does not protect you from low, long term levels of CO poisoning. They only alert to high concentrations, for an extended period of time. Every home should have a low-level CO detector! Protect yourself against low-level exposure.

As you can see, the readings go through the roof with an unvented range hood or microwave. Your breathing all this garbage in every time you cook. What if I have a vented hood or microwave? Well, it’s certainly better than unvented. All the byproducts of cooking still may not be making it outdoors. The size of the range hood, ducting, and airflow all influence how well it vents. Vented microwaves are not physically big enough to grab all the byproducts and vent them outdoors. And they are typically louder when the operate. Still better than nothing.

What would you recommend? I would recommend going with an electric induction cooktop for better indoor air quality. You’re not breathing and introducing contaminates into your home. Electric induction cooktops are more efficient, precise, and better for IAQ. Here is a link for more information on a website called Reviewed. It has a good explanation of how they work and the benefits.

If you have any other IAQ concerns, please feel free to give us a call. We can help you get set up with an IAQ monitor in your home so you can watch out for your family’s home and health.