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Why Natural Gas Stoves Are Harmful to Our Health and Climate



Gas stoves are associated with a certain allure: an image of prestigious chefs cooking in sought-after, high-end kitchens over an open flame. At the same time, electric stoves and their dated coils have been eschewed by many at-home culinary enthusiasts. But recently, that wisdom is being flipped upside down as the world gets a fuller understanding of the harmful health and climate impacts tied to our love of gas stoves.

A startling study published in January by Stanford University found that natural gas stoves—which more than a third of American homes use—may emit concerning levels of indoor air pollution, and could play a larger role in driving climate change than previously believed. Even when they weren’t being used, natural gas stoves were shown to release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and other harmful pollutants—including formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide—through leaks and in the service line.

The findings beg a much larger question of whether households around the world should move to potentially safer, and more efficient, electric induction stoves.

Methane leaks found in American kitchens

Historically, residential homes and buildings have been a blind spot when it comes to methane emissions. Very few studies have tried to measure how much methane is released by living in our homes and working in buildings; one study suggests we may be undercounting this impact in cities. On top of this, the fossil fuel industry has worked hard to turn gas stoves into one of America’s most loved appliances.

Stanford earth system sciences professor Rob Jackson and his team at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment are helping change this understanding with their January gas stove study—the first to analyze this issue. Publishing their work in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology, the team measured methane and nitrogen oxides released in 53 California homes during various phases of the cooking process. In total, 18 brands of gas cooktops and stoves between three and 30 years old were analyzed.

They estimate that the methane leaking from natural gas stoves in the U.S. is equal to the emissions released by half-a-million gasoline-powered cars every year. Just using one gas stove for a year emits on average 649 grams of methane—equivalent to the number of emissions released from driving 40 miles. In addition to contributing to climate change, these pollutants can trigger concerning health effects, including respiratory diseases like asthma, and reduced cognitive performance, both of which children are particularly vulnerable to. Tiny particles of particulate matter released from the gas can also penetrate deep in the lungs and, when exposed in the short term, can cause irritation not just in the lungs but also the eyes, nose, and throat.

Methane is not only emitted when a stovetop is in use, but also when it is turned off. In fact, more than three-quarters of all the methane emissions released by the stoves happened when they were off, the study found—a phenomenon that is likely explained by leaky pipes, and ill-fitted connections between natural gas hookups and the appliances they power. “Merely having the stove in your house creates a potential exposure pathway to air pollutants,” says Seth Sockoloff, executive director of PSE Healthy Energy, a research institute that collaborated with Stanford University on the study.

The size of your kitchen and the type of ventilation available can also change the level of impact gas stoves may have, explains Stanford study co-author Eric Lebel. For example, in one of the rooms measured, using the oven without any ventilation resulted in levels of nitrogen oxides that exceeded safety standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For example, according to a report published by the National Center for Healthy Housing and Enterprise Community Partners, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels from baking a cake in a gas oven measured 230 parts per billion (ppb). This is similar to the amount of NO2 found in smog, (around 200 ppb), according to research consortium, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

While the Stanford study only looked at a small number of homes, the team believes their state-level findings can be applied to the rest of the country, with little regional variation, suggesting that the impact of natural gas appliances is likely underestimated. And two decades of residential methane emissions data analyzed by climate nonprofit RMI supports the research. “Shockingly in the United States, gas stoves are not universally required to be vented outdoors,” RMI renewable energy expert Brady Seals told TIME. “So, much of the pollution that is emitted into the kitchen stays there.”

Based on all this, Jackson “absolutely” believes gas stoves are more harmful to the environment and human health than their electric counterparts. “Stoves are the only appliance where we are allowed to emit pollution directly into our homes,” he says. “Every furnace or water heater is required to vent to the outdoors—we would never stand over the tailpipe of a car breathing, yet we are perfectly happy to stand over our stoves and breathe their pollution.”

Are induction stoves better for your health and the climate?

For decades, induction stoves have been used in Europe, which currently makes up over 35% of the global market. In the U.S., however, induction stoves have only just started going mainstream, with energy experts and appliance producers now touting them as an environmentally friendly alternative to natural gas stoves.

Like electric stoves, induction stoves plug into an electrical source but they differ in how that heat is created. As their name suggests, induction stoves use induction technology. An electric current is passed through a coiled copper wire underneath the cooking surface, which creates a magnetic current that runs directly to the cooking pan to produce heat. This magnetic induction essentially transfers energy from the stovetop directly to any cookware that has a magnetic base. It’s likely that a number of pots and pans in your kitchen right now would be suitable for an induction stove, including those made of stainless steel, cast iron, and porcelain enamel on metal. (To find out if yours are compatible, appliance manufacturer Frigidaire recommends a simple “magnet test.”)

Because heat is transferred directly to a pot or pan, stove tops are cool to the touch. This more precise way of heating means more powerful cooking: induction stoves can boil water up to 50 percent faster compared to their gas and electric counterparts while maintaining constant and precise temperatures, notes Frigidaire.

Induction stoves are also much more efficient than conventional electric and gas stoves. The government-backed energy efficiency monitor Energy Star notes that induction cookware transfers heat with about 85% efficiency, far more than gas (32%) and most electric stoves (75-80%). “The per-unit efficiency of induction cooking tops is about 5 to 10% more efficient than conventional electric resistance units and about three times more efficient than gas,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told TIME. If all U.S. cooking tops sold in 2021 used induction technology that met government-recommended usage guidelines, Energy Star estimates that cost savings would have been over $125 million.

But this increased efficiency comes at a higher price tag. Induction stoves start out at around $1,000 compared to a couple of hundred dollars for conventional electric or gas stoves. So, is this more expensive, yet highly efficient, stove also better for your health?

Like other household appliances, including microwaves and toasters, induction stoves emit electromagnetic waves. But the amounts are low enough to be considered safe under standards set by the governing agency Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. While some early studies have raised questions about whether these electromagnetic fields may be harmful to children and fetuses, the World Health Organization in 2007 found no compelling evidence of medium-frequency magnetic fields having long-term effects on human health. In comparison, gas stoves have been linked to 42% higher rates of asthma in children.

Kenneth McCloud, a professor at Binghamton University in New York who studies the influence of electromagnetic fields on humans, says that studies to determine the potential effects of induction cooktops are hard to control and generally do not present enough evidence that the appliances are harmful. “Are any of those effects hazardous?” he says. “In terms of what you can be exposed to in the home, I am unaware of any detrimental effects.”

As with any other appliance, when using induction stoves, be sure to read and understand safety instructions in their entirety. This includes using appropriately sized and constructed cookware and maintaining a safe distance by using the rear cooking fields.

The future energy transition

The long-term effects of continuing to burn fossil fuels and the associated climate implications further compound health issues—from worse air quality to exacerbating heat stress and worsening natural disasters. “While we may feel the health impacts from our gas stove sooner than the climate impacts,” says Seals at RMI, “on the macro level, burning gas in our homes makes us reliant on these climate-disrupting fuels and the leaky infrastructure that supports them.”

To limit climate change and its impacts, science says we need to transition away from fossil fuels. To do this, some states like Massachusetts and cities in California are pushing legislation to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings and promote all-electric new construction through incentives and rebates. In December 2021, New York City became the largest in the nation to enact such regulation.

“The idea is that we don’t want to lock in these gas appliances as infrastructure for the next 20 or 30 years—that’s how long a gas stove will last,” says Lebel. “If someone buys a gas stove today, that appliance is going to be in a person’s kitchen for the next several decades.”

In the meantime, not everyone can afford to upgrade immediately, and the environmental impacts of producing new stoves and discarding old ones before the end of their life shouldn’t be ignored either, the Stanford researchers note. Similar to electric vehicles, a better understanding is needed of what sourcing more resources like minerals for the stoves entails. So, until the right moment comes to choose induction—maybe that’s when searching for a new apartment or taking advantage of rebates to make the switch—the researchers suggest taking small initial steps to move toward electrifying residential kitchens.

These include strategies like investing in induction pots and pans that can be used on other types of stoves and updating electrical outlets and appliances, like induction stoves, as time and money allows. Until then, always turn on the hood vent or fan and open nearby windows when operating a natural gas stove.

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According To Study, Monarch Butterflies Might Become Disoriented as a Result of Light Pollution



Biologists say nighttime light pollution can interfere with the remarkable navigational abilities of monarchs, which travel as far as Canada to Mexico and back during their multi-generational migration.

Researchers found that butterflies roosting at night near artificial illumination such as a porch or streetlight can become disoriented the next day because the light interferes with their circadian rhythms.

Artificial light can impede the molecular processes responsible for the butterfly’s remarkable navigational ability and trigger the butterfly to take wing when it should be resting.

Light pollution affects monarch butterflies

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According to biologists, evening light pollution can interfere with monarchs’ extraordinary navigational abilities, which allow them to travel as far as Canada to Mexico and back throughout their multigenerational trips.

Researchers discovered that butterflies roosting at night near artificial lightings, such as a porch or streetlight, can get disoriented the next day because the light disrupts their circadian cycles.

Artificial light can disrupt the chemical mechanisms that allow the butterfly to navigate so well and cause it to take flight when it should be resting.

With their unpredictable, meandering motions sweeping them over your lawn, it’s difficult to envision monarch butterflies adhering to a strict flight plan. However, some monarch populations migrate thousands of kilometers to the same woods in Mexico where they spend the winter.

Researchers are now investigating if light pollution is hampering this incredible cross-country journey.

“It’s an essential subject since many migrants travel through cities,” said co-author and UC master’s graduate Samuel Stratton, as per ScienceDaily.

“Getting some ecological data would be extremely beneficial in determining the effects of light pollution on orientation and migratory outcomes.”

Monarch butterflies rely on the darkness of night to digest proteins that are essential to their internal compass.

Millions of monarch butterflies migrate east across the Rocky Mountains from their summer breeding areas in southern Canada and the northern United States, covering distances of up to 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) to overwintering grounds in Mexico.

Monarch butterflies may carry up to five generations across the continent and return. They utilize an internal clock to inform them where to orient themselves concerning the shifting position of the sun in the sky as they travel.

However, monarchs subjected to nocturnal light pollution, such as a street lamp above their preferred roost in a cedar tree, may undergo a phase shift, causing their body to believe it is either sooner or later than it is. According to UC researchers, this can throw off their perception of time.

Read more: Artificial Light Pollution: What is It and How Does it Affect our Environment?

Light pollution

Humans and their creations are responsible for the majority of environmental damage on Earth. Consider the vehicle or that marvelous man-made substance, plastic, as per National Geographic.

Automobile emissions are now a major source of air pollution that contributes to climate change, and plastics pollute our oceans, posing a substantial health risk to marine wildlife.

Electric light may be a lovely thing, leading us home as the sun sets, keeping us secure, and making our houses comfortable and cheerful.

However, like with carbon dioxide emissions and plastic, too much of a good thing has begun to harm the ecosystem.

Light pollution, or the excessive or inappropriate use of artificial light in the outdoors, has an impact on human health, wildlife behavior, and our ability to see stars and other celestial objects.

Light pollution is a worldwide problem. The World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness, a computer-generated atlas based on hundreds of satellite photographs, made this very clear in 2016.

The atlas, which is viewable online, depicts how and where our planet is illuminated at night.

Large portions of North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia are illuminated, with only the most distant sections of the planet (Siberia, the Sahara, and the Amazon) completely dark.

Singapore, Qatar, and Kuwait are among the most light-polluted countries on the planet.

Related article: Light Pollution: LED Streetlights Contribute to Moth Decline in England

© 2022 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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Little Falls native opens Environmental Advantage



… tree removal services, Clark started Environmental Advantage in September 2019 and … growth and maximize fruit production. Environmental Advantage does this through deep … healthy environment is to plant trees, which is another service Environmental Advantage …

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Our cities will keep flooding. What if we stopped fighting it and worked with nature instead?



This story is part of Uytae Lee’s Stories About Here, an original series with the CBC Creator Network. You can watch every episode of this series on CBC Gem.

In November 2021, Abbotsford, B.C. was deluged with several days of heavy rain, flooding much of the low-lying valley around the city, wreaking havoc and causing millions of dollars in damage. 

With climate change, that will likely happen a lot more often in cities across Canada, including Calgary, Ottawa, and Montreal.

So what should we do about this?

Dikes and dams

Rivers are not naturally static bodies of water. A river can fluctuate in size and even shift direction depending on the climate, resulting in floods to the land next to it.

Over the years, humans have built dikes and other structures to ensure the river stays in its lane and allow them to build settlements nearby.

But climate change and the floods it brings are proving to be a real threat to structures like these.

That was seen in the Fraser River valley of British Columbia.

Provincial government data projects that by the end of the 21st century, floods we’re used to seeing every 200 to 500 years will start occurring closer to every 50 years, and a survey of dikes in the Fraser Valley conducted by the Fraser Basin Council found that 71 per cent of them could fail during this kind of a flood. Fixing them comes with a huge price tag — up to $10 billion for the Metro Vancouver area alone by some estimates.

There are other solutions: in Calgary, the city is looking to build a $744-million reservoir to temporarily hold water when its river runs high, while in Ontario, the Clairville dam holds back water to help prevent flooding in the Greater Toronto Area. 

Then there’s Winnipeg, where in the 1960s, the city dug out what is effectively a giant ditch to keep from flooding. During heavy rains, it reroutes water from the Red River around the entire city. At the time, it was the second largest earth-moving project in the world after the Panama Canal.

These solutions, however, have on thing in common: the extraordinary cost.

The salmon solution

Fortunately, I found an initiative that has helped me look at the issue a bit differently — one aimed at helping salmon.

The Fraser River is the world’s largest salmon-producing river. Each year, hundreds of thousands to millions of these fish swim up the Fraser to spawn, and their offspring then make their way back toward the Pacific. Along the way, they look for refuge in little streams, marshes or sloughs to rest and grow stronger before they swim out to the ocean. 

But it turns out dikes dotted throughout the Fraser Valley have blocked salmon from accessing these crucial resting areas. According to the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, over 1,500 kilometres of habitat have been blocked by dikes. 

The Fraser is the world’s largest salmon-producing river. Many are advocating for salmon-friendly infrastructure to be integrated to upgrades to dikes. (Stories About Here)

Now, as the need comes for some of these dikes to be upgraded, many are advocating for salmon-friendly infrastructure to be integrated to the changes.

These include gates that open to let fish access the streams behind the dikes, or pump stations that don’t harm fish while water is pumped from the stream to the river. 

These proposals come as salmon returns are on a dangerous decline. Last year, the federal government closed 60 per cent of commercial salmon fisheries because they were on the “verge of collapse.”

They also highlight how building these dikes may not have been the best idea in the first place.

Managed retreats

In the long term, a more responsible response to increased flooding might be to create space for them to happen naturally, and move people safely out of the way. 

In 2006, the Netherlands launched Room for the River, a program that involved buying out homeowners who lived close to rivers and moving their dikes further back to create more space for river floods.

A little closer to home, communities like Grand Forks, B.C. have adopted a “managed retreat” strategy, buying out homeowners whose properties are likely to be destroyed by future flooding.

Abbotsford, B.C. pictured under floodwaters on Nov. 16, 2021. (Stories About Here)

These require difficult conversations with people who are losing their homes. But each restored floodplain comes with new marshes, wetlands and creeks that offer new habitats for wildlife, while also creating critical protections for communities around them.

Our knee-jerk reaction to things like flooding has often been to fight back against our natural environments to preserve human-made landscapes.

But as we see floods become a bigger problem, we’re invited to re-examine our relationship with the natural world — or at the very least, help out some salmon.

See some of the solutions discussed in this story by watching “Stories About Here: What Do We Do About River Floods?

About this series

Stories About Here is an original series with the CBC Creator Network that explores the urban planning challenges that communities across Canada face today. In each episode we dig into the often overlooked issues in our own backyards — whether it’s the shortage of public bathrooms, sewage leaking into the water, or the bureaucratic roots of the housing crisis. Through it all, we hope to inspire people to become better informed and engaged members of their communities.

You can watch every episode of this series on CBC Gem.

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