Health experts worry the problem could get worse as people reduce ventilation in order to retain heat in their homes
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Around 13,000 children across Ireland are thought to have suffered asthma symptoms in the last year because their food is cooked with gas.
A new study by non-profit energy efficiency group CLASP and the European Public Health Alliance probed the health impacts of gas cooking in households across Europe with support from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).
It found 21 per cent of Irish homes use a gas cooker but without 'mechanical ventilation' they create a build-up of nitrogen dioxide that exceeds World Health Organisation air quality guidelines multiple times a week.
Separate TNO lab tests showed gas hobs also produced carbon monoxide, particulate matter and other pollutants that can cause severe health effects, particularly for children.
A global meta-analysis of 41 indoor air pollution studies and asthma rates in kids found those living in a home with a gas stove have a 42 per cent increased chance of experiencing asthma symptoms.
According to the report this can include increases in the number of days with limited speech, coughs and nocturnal symptoms.
But the research suggests 12 per cent of current paediatric asthma cases in the EU "could be avoided if gas cookers were removed overnight."
CLASP chief executive Christine Egan says as we spend the most time inside "indoor air quality can have a major impact on our health and wellbeing".
But she added: "Few people are aware of the harmful risks posed by gas cooking appliances – cooking your dinner could expose you to as many pollutants as second hand smoke.
"Gas cooking appliances need health warning labels like cigarette packets."
TNO used gas to cook typical meals in average kitchen conditions over a week period without a range-hood venting outside to measure the levels of toxins in the air.
The simulation found the WHO daily limit of 25 µg/m3 of nitrous oxide was exceeded five days per week.
Kitchen size is a factor and ventilation reduces pollution, but the report also notes vents are often ineffective, insufficient or underused.
And health groups worry the situation could get even worse as people reduce ventilation to retain heat because of spiralling fuel costs.
EPHA director general, Dr Milka Sokolović, said: “We fear indoor air quality could get especially bad this winter in homes using gas cookers, as people reduce ventilation and avoid opening windows to save heat and money during the energy crisis.
"With fewer air exchanges with the outside, it is increasingly important to tackle indoor sources of air pollution, such as gas stoves.
"Children and people with preexisting respiratory conditions are most at risk of negative health impacts."
CLASP and EPHA are now urging authorities across Europe to legislate for a shift away from gas cooking.
Egan said: "EU officials have an obligation to consider these health risks."
Sokolović added: "For all the health and environmental damage that is linked to burning fossil fuels in our homes, governments have a responsibility to set in place frameworks that lead us away from gas and towards clean electric cooking.
"The current revision of the cooking appliances regulation provides an opportunity for the EU to prove that it is living up to its Zero Pollution vision and ambition."
The report also says the use of the word ‘natural’ in front of gas obscures the risks and "leads people to believe that gas is clean, good for the environment, and safe for household use".
In Ireland a 2022 Environmental Protection Agency report found poor air quality causes around 1,300 premature deaths a year.
Air pollution has also been recognised as our continent's biggest environmental health risk by the European Environment Agency while the WHO lists it among its top 10 major threats to global health.
Exposure to high levels of pollution is known to cause strokes, heart disease, lung cancer as well as chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.
The report's authors used a population attributable fraction to estimate how many of Ireland’s 750,543 children – 21.5 per cent of whom had asthma in 2003 – could be suffering asthma symptoms as a result of gas cooking.
PAF is defined as the fraction of all cases of a particular disease or other adverse condition in a population that is attributable to a specific exposure.
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