Manager in RMI's Carbon-Free Buildings program, Brady Seals, joins the Climate Curious podcast by TEDxLondon to discuss gas stoves

Transcript: Climate Quickie: Why cookin’ on gas, ain’t all that

TEDxLondon Climate Curious

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Your gas stove’s gotta go if you want to improve your home’s air quality and protect your health, says Manager in RMI’s Carbon-Free Buildings program, Brady Seals, on the Climate Curious podcast by TEDxLondon. Including four easy tips to reduce your gas exposure at home today: open a window, turn on your extractor fan, cook on the back burner, and get a plug in induction plate or even an air fryer!

Further resources:
Follow Brady on Twitter bradytoday
Follow RMI on Twitter RockyMtnInst


Maryam Pasha:
In this week’s Climate Quickie, we hear from Brady Seals, a Manager in RMI’s Carbon-Free Buildings program on why your gas stove has gotta go.

Polluting our homes and causing asthma and other health problems, means getting rid of our gas stoves or cookers is a win-win for health and climate when it comes to improving air quality in our homes and burning less fossil fuels.

Let’s head over to Brady to learn more.

Stay Curious! 

Brady Seals:

Well, my name is Brady Seals. I work at RMI. We’re a nonprofit organization and I’ve worked on cook stoves my whole career.

Ben Hurst:
So, why are people still using gas stoves? What’s, what has gone wrong here? Why are we stuck? Or what did, what did you find with the research?

Brady Seals:
Well, we found in the research that there are very well documented risks of gas stoves. And in fact, a summary study, which looks at all the research, says our strongest evidence is on children’s health, right? And it finds that children who live in a home with a gas stove have a 42% increased risk of having asthma symptoms and about a 24% risk of being diagnosed with asthma. By a doctor. So these are big numbers and in our most recent study we found that that risk is almost comparable with living with a smoker with children’s asthma, risk of secondhand smoke. But nobody knew about this. I didn’t know about this. I’ve worked on stoves. For so long. Um, I do think that there’s been a well-funded marketing campaign. Now you’re cooking with gas and the blue flame. And so I think that that has helped people think that gas is a superior product.

So induction stoves, most people haven’t heard of them. I hadn’t cooked on an induction stove until three years ago. Less than 3% market share. And so I think the other piece was there wasn’t this modern, amazing technology that you could say, this is so much better than gas.

Ben Hurst:
And I, I remember the, um, Maryam, I dunno if you remember this, but do you remember the British gas logo used to be like a blue flame did it used to be a little blue fireman.

Maryam Pasha:
It used to be a little blue dancing flame and it was all like natural gas and it was so I remember that. I used to really like that.

Brady Seals:
It’s technically a consumer product, but there is. Hardly any rules.

So gas stoves have almost like a free reign to pollute. They don’t have to meet any standards, which is wild. Think about all the things in our households, baby products, et cetera, that have to meet a safety standard. Wow. So even plugs and stuff. Even plugs. Exactly. Mm-hmm. And these are basically having high levels of emissions, combustion emissions, which are reach levels that if they were outdoors, would be illegal.

Wow. With, with no limits on them. So, uh, here we have the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Their job is to regulate products and make sure they’re. Safe, um, for us as consumers. And so when you trace it back, uh, one of the consumer product safety commissioners had said, look, if a product can’t be made safe, it can be banned.

Mm-hmm. And it was this B word, the B word, the banned word that really. Started the floodgates of the media, right? I was doing 50 interviews a week. We had, you mentioned before, 25,000 media hits. And interestingly it was across every major publication, the, the right, the left, the middle, uh, academics. And I think a lot of people were realising that gas stoves aren’t as safe as we thought. And so for better or worse, it became a cultural moment. Went a little viral, but it got people talking. Mm-hmm. And we’re seeing now the polling that it’s made a huge impact. 60% of parents would consider switching from their gas stove to an electric stove because of health impacts.

Ben Hurst:

Maryam Pasha:
That is quite incredible. Like, that’s quite an incredible journey to go on. Maybe could you just take us through a little bit of some of the top line things we need to understand when we are thinking about gas and climate and buildings and climate? 

Brady Seals:
Absolutely. So buildings are actually our global biggest polluters. Uh, 40% of global emissions comes from buildings. And so from a climate perspective, there’s a big need to address the fossil fuels and the materials we use to build our buildings.

Your water heater, your stove, and maybe your clothes dryer. So if you have these appliances in your home and they burn gas, most of them have to be vented outdoors because of building codes and laws. So our furnaces and water heaters sent pollution outdoors, and this pollution, um, is bad for climate and bad for health because it produces things like nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. The gas stove has this outsized health impact because it’s the one appliance that often is unvented in our homes where we spend 90% of our times that we’re standing in front of.

And so gas stoves don’t have as. Big of a climate impact outdoors because they’re vented inside, right? They don’t use as much energy, but taken together these couple of appliances added up with all the other homes and businesses burning them, lead up to this [00:28:00] 40% global emissions. And so it’s a key area to target.

Maryam Pasha:
What are some alternatives? Are there other things that people could switch to?

Brady Seals:
Well first all, um, if you’re listening to this and feeling terrified, uh, I want you to know that there are some things that you can do right now today. The first is if you do have a gas stove, you can open a window. You can, if you have a range hood. Turn on your range hood and actually cook on the back burners where range hoods are more effective.

The next step is to try to displace some of your cooking. I’m sure a lot of people in the uk everyone has an electric kettle, I bet. Electric kettles, air fryers, toaster ovens, um, instant pots. So if you have these appliances already, you can try to limit the amount of time you have to turn on your gas stove. That’s the second step. The third step, um, is you can get a plug-in induction, either a one plate or a two plate uh huh.

And so I’ve seen really creative, uh, ways where people actually turn their gas stove into an induction stove. If you’re a renter or if you can’t afford, uh, or can’t commit to getting an induction stove right away,  where. As long as your gas stove doesn’t have pilot lights, you can put a butcher block or two sheet pans on top of it, and then you can plug in your induction stoves nearby, put them on top, save yourself counter space and see if you like the induction experience.

That would be the third stage. And then the fourth stage, I think, is trying to transition to an electric or an induction range.

And so if you’re conscious and curious about climate solutions, I think it’s a really great one to make the decision when it’s time to switch to electric or induction. 

Ben Hurst:
An important messaging, right? That it’s not like, do it now. Do it today, but like, when, when it’s possible. Mm-hmm. Feel empowered that you have the ability to make a better decision, um, and also a better decision for your own health.



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