I spend a lot of time fretting about how my home might be slowly killing me. As an environmental journalist, it’s part of my job to be hyper aware of any toxins that could be lurking around me. Lately, my gas stove has me especially worried.
I didn’t think much about the hazards of cooking with a gas stove in the past because, like a lot of people, I’ve been bombarded with ad campaigns from the natural gas industry since I was a kid. Recent reporting from Rebecca Leber at Mother Jones exposes how insidious that influence has been.
Gas stoves actually unleash indoor air pollutants like soot, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Beyond that, greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels like natural gas drive climate change. That’s why there’s a push now to electrify homes; electric stoves can run on clean energy.
The history of how “cooking with gas” campaigns have made a source of fossil fuel combustion in our homes seem completely innocuous gets pretty ridiculous. Leber dug up a rap video from 1988 that spends an entire four minutes hyping up gas stoves in rhyme. “Gas is so hot, it’s not on when it’s off / it’s the only way to cook, that’s what I was taught,” the rap starts off.
Fast forward to about two minutes into the video, however, and there’s a disclaimer in the lyrics that my colleague Sean O’Kane noticed: “Safe cooking begins with range location / avoid main traffic paths and also isolation.”
Today, gas groups pay social media influencers to advertise the supposed benefits of cooking with the fossil fuel, Leber reports. A public relations representative even posed as a resident in a neighborhood to stir up backlash against building codes that would discourage natural gas hookups in new construction, she writes.
You have to read the truly bizarre and alarming history of gas that Leber traces in her article. With many of us spending more time working and hanging out at home during the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to be aware of what we’re exposed to inside the place that’s supposed to be our refuge.