Gas stoves – they’ve been all over the news in recent months, due in part to new research published in December of 2022 attributing 12.7% of childhood asthma in the US to gas stove use. A whirlwind of media coverage followed, from NPR to Architectural Digest, as folks jumped into a conversation that was quickly becoming polarizing, politicized, and focused on the possibility of banning gas stoves. This became an alarmist point of contention that some conservatives latched on to. “God. Guns. Gas stoves.” tweeted Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). In response, articles reassured readers that “no one is coming for your gas stoves.” Suddenly a niche aspect of health and indoor air quality research was being debated on the nightly news.
At the center of this conversation has been the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a federal regulatory agency charged with protecting the public against unreasonable risks of injury associated with consumer products. The CPSC’s Chair, Alexander Hoehn-Saric, tweeted on January 11, 2023, that he was “not looking to ban gas stoves.” CPSC is exploring solutions to reduce risks associated with gas stove pollution. As a part of this process, in the spring the CPSC invited public comments on gas stove emissions and risks.
Despite the recent swell of press attention, this issue is not new to the Midwest Building Decarbonization Coalition’s Health Working Group. This working group, made up of public health practitioners, medical professionals, and community advocates, has been tracking this research for over two years. This RFI from the CPSC was the perfect chance for the Health Working Group to utilize their research and submit comments to the agency.
Preparation Proved Key for a Quick Response
On March 7th, a formal request for information was posted by the CPSC, with responses due May 8th.
“This request for information (RFI)  seeks input from the public on chronic chemical hazards from gas ranges. Chemical hazards result in acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) adverse health outcomes resulting from exposures to chemical substances…This RFI does not constitute or propose regulatory action, but rather is intended to inform the Commission and the public.”
In the months leading up to this CPSC RFI, the Health Working Group had worked to proactively and collaboratively create health talking points and a resource list – resources they knew would come in handy in situations exactly like this one. In this case, the group only had two meetings across 60 days to coordinate a response to the whopping 27 questions posed in the RFI. Thanks to their preparation, the MWBDC’s Health Working Group was able to discuss, draft, and submit detailed comments that were co-signed by other Midwestern organizations and individuals working to make our homes and buildings healthier for all.
Our Evidence-Based Comments
MWBDC’s Health Working Group submitted comments that outlined the facts about indoor air quality, pollutants produced by gas stoves, the effectiveness of ventilation, and the health impacts for those living in homes with them – relying heavily on assessments conducted by federal agencies and the findings of peer-reviewed studies. Based on the scientific evidence, we voiced our support for CPSC’s investigation of solutions to mitigate the health risks posed by gas stoves. Our recommendations included mandatory standards for the sale of range hoods alongside gas ranges; building codes or other local or state laws or regulations for exhaust hoods (internally and externally vented) above or near gas ranges; and the creation of educational materials for consumers, including warning labels.
Support From Organizations Across the Midwest
Nearly 9,000 comments were submitted to the CPSC on this topic. Our Health Working Group members felt it was important that their hard work on these comments and the Midwestern perspective were not buried amongst all the others, so we sought out support from across the region before submitting. A multitude of reputable organizations backed our comments, representing diverse interests including public health, medicine, clean air, climate, energy, consumer safety, environmental and racial justice, housing, law, faith, and more. For some of these groups, this was their first introduction to MWBDC’s Health Working Group, and we are always grateful to add more perspectives to this work. We know that we’re stronger together – thank you to all 33 organizations who signed on to our comments!
You can read the entirety of MWBDC’s final submitted comments here, along with all 8,954 comments submitted to CPSC. If you’re interested in participating in the MWBDC’s Health Working Group, let us know!