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A common appliance is worsening air quality inside homes for millions of Americans: 'That's pretty scary'

"Reducing indoor risks is important."

"Reducing indoor risks is important."

Photo Credit: iStock

Indoor air pollution is a huge problem in the U.S. and can lead to severe health issues like cancer and heart disease.

What's happening?

Almost 120 million people in the U.S. live in spots that suffer from unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to Reuters. But outdoor pollutants aren't the only problem — indoor air pollution affects 40 million homes across the country. The culprits? Natural gas use coupled with poor ventilation.

Peggy Shepard, co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, monitors air quality in homes across New York City and says indoor readings are often worse than those taken outside.

"That's pretty scary," she told Reuters.

Why is indoor air pollution concerning?

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, both short- and long-term exposure to indoor pollution can cause health issues like respiratory diseases, heart disease, cognitive difficulties, and cancer. In fact, over 12% of childhood asthma cases in the U.S. are related to the use of gas stoves, CNN reports.

Benzene is just one chemical that spews from gas stoves. It's correlated with cancer and can cause indoor air conditions worse than those associated with secondhand cigarette smoke, according to one study.

Gas-powered stoves are also contributing to our planet's warming, which threatens human health in various ways, from increased risk of heat-related deaths and illnesses to food shortages due to prolonged droughts.

What can I do to help with indoor air pollution? 

Annie Carforo, WE ACT's climate justice campaigns coordinator, told Reuters that people of color and those living in lower-income communities already experience disproportionate levels of air pollution, so reducing indoor risks is important. 

The organization spent 10 months monitoring air quality in 20 homes in the South Bronx. Half of them had switched to electric induction stoves, while the others retained old gas cookers. They found that the flats that switched to electric reduced nitrogen dioxide concentrations by 35% and carbon monoxide by 60%.

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As a result of this study, the New York City Housing Authority committed to electrify and decarbonize all 2,400 buildings it manages across the city, Reuters reported. At a national level, some are also arguing for a ban on gas stoves, and Shepard said that money should be invested into communities to help landlords replace gas boilers and install heat pumps in rentals.

If you own a gas stove, you can help protect yourself from indoor air pollution by opening your window while cooking and using a ventilation hood. You can also buy an air cleaner/purifier or a HEPA filter. Of course, upgrading to an induction stove or burner will reduce your risks even further. 

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