November 17, 2016

The "Things You Should Know" blog series will cover home health, safety, and comfort tips that homeowners and renters should know, but might not. Email your topic suggestions to qkorzeniecki@bpi.org.

While every home has some level of air pollutants, you might be shocked to learn that one of the most frequented parts of our homes – the kitchen – could be the source of many potentially hazardous chemicals and compounds.

Nearly a third of all U.S. households use natural gas cooking appliances. These appliances can emit dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and formaldehyde (HCHO) if not properly vented. High levels of these compounds can lead to respiratory, cardiovascular and other health ailments.

A 2014 National Institute of Health (NIH) study revealed that, during a typical winter week, 1.7 million Californians could be exposed to dangerous levels of CO and 12 million could be exposed to excessive NO2 if they do not use venting range hoods while cooking.

What about electric stove burners?

Electric burners come with their own emissions – particles. Scientists believe that particles, including fine particles less than 2.5 micrometers and ultrafine particles less than 1 micrometer in diameter, are particularly harmful because they can easily enter the lungs and even the bloodstream and other tissues. Both gas and electric stoves emit these particles.

Brett Singer, scientist at Berkeley Lab, says, “Electric burners produce ultrafine particles essentially by volatilizing dust. It's the same process with your toaster, resistance heater or radiator if you haven’t used it for a while. After you turn it on, you can smell it – it smells terrible. You’re smelling the chemicals that have been volatilized. Once they’re in the air, they re-condense into these ultrafine particles. This is the chemistry lab in your kitchen.”

How can I reduce adverse health effects from using gas and electric appliances?

  1. Always use the kitchen range hood fan, vented outside, when operating either the stove or the oven.
  2. Follow all operating instructions carefully: Don't block air vent holes, especially the ones on the bottom of the oven, keep the oven and stove clean, do not operate with the oven door open, and never use the stove to heat your home.
  3. Install a fire extinguisher, smoke and carbon monoxide detector in the home near your appliances.
  4. Evacuate the house or call for assistance from outside the home if you smell natural gas.

Use our locator tool to find a certified professional near you who can test your appliances, furnaces and more to ensure that your kitchen is safe for you and family.

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Quinn Korzeniecki

Quinn Korzeniecki joined the Building Performance Institute, Inc. team as the Senior Communications Associate in August 2015. As a new first-time homeowner herself, she enjoys sharing information on how other homeowners can not only save money and energy by being efficient, but can also keep themselves and their families safe and healthy in the process.