How did gas stoves become a rallying cry for Republicans against Democrats, just like managing Covid-19 or hypersensitive social issues? The fire began after a statement by the head of a government agency that caused one of these disputes that exacerbated the political life of the United States.
In an interview with Bloomberg January 9, Richard Trumka, a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), said that due to the pollution emitted by this type of stove, a ban cannot be ruled out. “This is a hidden danger,” he said, referring to the potential breathing problems they can cause. “All options are being considered. Products that cannot be made safe can be banned,” he said. In the United States, about 35% of kitchens run on gas, or 40 million people use it.
Already at the CPSC meeting in October 2022, Richard Trumka wanted the commission’s staff to start developing rules regarding gas stoves. But he was unable to enlist the support of four other participants, recalls the New York Times.
“You will have to come and snatch it from my hands!”
It was enough to start a rumor about an imminent ban on gas stoves and spark outrage from officials and right-wing Internet users. Revolting against a possible attempt to trample on their freedoms, some posed as heralds of well-cooked food. “Electric stoves suck,” said conservative commentator Matt Walsh. Others defended the most disadvantaged from government officials who were considered privileged, as induction cookers are expensive in the United States.
“The Democrats will take over your kitchen appliances,” Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said. “Their desire to control every aspect of your life has no limits, including how you prepare your breakfast,” he tweeted.
Elected South Carolina official Jeff Duncan said he sees this as a new “abuse of power” by the Biden administration. “Washington bureaucrats should not influence how Americans cook their own dinner,” he tweeted.
And like other netizens, Florida MP Matt Goetz proudly posted a video of a gas stove. “You must come and snatch it from me!” he wrote, drawing on a formula especially popularized by actor Charlton Heston, longtime president of the powerful NRA gun lobby, who in 2000 made headway by brandishing a rifle to warn Democrats against any attempt to get into guns.
In a similar vein, Ohio MP Jim Jordan posted a tweet that sounded like a motto: “God. Weapon. Gas stoves. West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin was also critical. “The feds don’t need to tell American families how to cook dinner. I can tell you that the last thing that will leave my house is the gas stove we cook on,” he tweeted.
Joe Biden speaks out against gas stove ban
In view of the scale of the disagreement, the White House and the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission had to speak out. “The President (Joe Biden) does not support a ban on gas stoves,” spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said. And the commission, “which is independent, does not ban gas stoves.” Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said there was “no way” to ban gas stoves. He predicted a backlash from homeowners across the country if that happened: “People love their gas stoves.”
“I want to be clear. Contrary to recent press reports, I am not seeking to ban gas stoves,” CPSC head Alex Hen-Sharik wrote to him. In the spring, the commission will begin soliciting public opinion on the dangers of gas stoves and potential solutions to mitigate the risks. Alex Hen-Sharik did point out that, according to research, “gas stove emissions can be dangerous.”
Two studies show that more than 12% of asthma cases are related to kitchen gas.
Recent studies, which are not unanimous, blame the gas stove for being responsible for cases of childhood asthma in the United States and Europe. A December 2022 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health estimated that 12.7% of childhood asthma cases in the United States may be related to kitchen gas. “Using a gas stove is very much like having a smoker living in your house,” study lead author Talor Grunwald told AFP. This Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) study builds on a meta-analysis of 41 previous studies, combined with US Census data, and echoes a 2018 Australian study in which 12.3% of childhood asthma was attributed to these stoves.
Similar results were released on Monday, January 9, in Europe by Clasp, Respire and the European Public Health Alliance. Based on laboratory tests and computer simulations, the Applied Scientific Research Organization of the Netherlands (TNO) estimated that 12% of cases of childhood asthma in the European Union are also associated with this cooking method. But this NGO-commissioned report is not being published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Some, such as the US gas lobby AGA, dismissed the findings as “a purely mathematical exercise in advancing a cause with nothing scientifically new.” But for Stanford University’s Rob Jackson, author of a study on methane pollution from gas stoves (even when they’re turned off due to leaks), they confirm “dozens of other studies that conclude that breathing polluted gas indoors can trigger asthma.” . Daniel Pope, professor of public health at the University of Liverpool (UK), says he is extremely cautious. The link between asthma and pollution from gas stoves has not yet been definitively proven, and more research is needed, he said.
Debate surrounding proposals to limit gas use in homes due to its impact on climate change and public health has intensified since 2019, when Berkeley became the first city in the nation to ban gas from most new homes and buildings. New York Times. Since then, dozens of cities in California and across the country have adopted similar ordinances that go beyond gas stoves to other household appliances.
The lively stove debate – in any case a perfect “example of the most ridiculous currents in American politics” – was directly appreciated on Thursday, January 12, by a column published in The Atlantic magazine. “A small thing can turn into a huge controversy for no good reason.”