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Stephen Colbert sparks backlash with joke about 'dangerous' stoves: 'You don't know what you're talking about'

"I think you might be thinking of your grandmother's electric stove."

Rewiring America Stephen Colbert

Photo Credit: @leahstokes / Twitter

So far, 2023's strangest hot-button issue is … kitchen stoves? 

It all started thanks to a Bloomberg article, published in January, that highlighted the pervasive health risks of gas stoves. 

In the article, Richard Trumka Jr., a member of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), stated clearly that gas stoves — which are currently used in 40% of U.S. households — pose a serious health risk. 

One study, released just weeks prior, showed that gas cooktops also caused 13% of childhood asthma cases

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Another report shows that gas stoves leak dangerous gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide at levels deemed unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and World Health Organization (WHO). These gases can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, respiratory illness, cancer, and other negative health outcomes.

With all of these risks in mind, the CPSC proposed a nationwide ban on gas stoves. And perhaps predictably, this issue has become highly politicized

Among those who commented on the debate was Late Show host Stephen Colbert, who responded by jokingly claiming that electric stoves were just as unsafe. 

"Kids, I don't want you inhaling particulate matter," Colbert said on his show. "So I bought us something that goes from room temperature to the surface of the sun with nothing in between, and when you turn it off it stays hot for hours." 

Colbert's monologue sparked a wide range of commentary online, including from those who believed he was being far too glib about the issue.

One response came from Rewiring America, a non-profit focused on increasing clean electrical energy in American homes. In a now-viral video, the organization called out Colbert's monologue — and showed just how safe electric cooktops can be. (Note: Do not try to replicate the actions shown in this video.)

In the clip, Rewiring America's Dan McCollister (@wehavethepeople) speaks directly to Colbert.

"I think you might be thinking of your grandmother's electric stove," he says

The employee proceeds to boil water in a saucepan. Once it's hot, he removes the pot and immediately presses his cheek to the stovetop, showing how quickly these devices can cool down. 

This is possible because induction stoves — an increasingly common type of electric cooktop that gets its power and precision from induction technologyuse magnetism to transfer energy from the cooktop to the pan. It's the same technology that allows them to work faster than gas or even traditional electric stoves. 

"I think this is your 'windmills cause cancer' moment," McCollister says, referencing demonstrably false claims about the impact of noise from windmill farms. "You don't know what you're talking about." 

Ultimately, the Biden administration tabled the ban, meaning gas stoves won't be going away anytime soon.

Induction cooktops are becoming more affordable than ever, with single burner options available for around $200. Tax credits are also available to help people afford the upgrade.

But if you cannot, for whatever reason, make the switch, here are some tips on how to use your gas stove more safely.

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