Table Of Contents
Gas Cooking And Its Effects On Asthma
A gas cooker or gas stove is a cooking appliance commonly found in most Australian homes (both old and modern). Cooking with gas or using a gas stove is a double edge sword that can benefit and also harm you and your household. Compared to an induction cooktop, a gas cooker racks up a lesser energy bill; however, its use has a couple of health effects that might prove fatal in the long run.
In this article, we will look into whether gas cooking with asthma is terrible, especially in children, and how to reduce the risk of asthma caused by using gas stoves. But first, let's understand the concept of asthma as a disease.
Gas Stoves And Asthma In Australia
Asthma is a disease that affects the body's respiratory system and attacks the patient's airways. The following occurs when a person is having an asthma attack:
• The airways tighten: This occurs because the thin layer of muscles inside the walls of the airways is contracting. When the contraction happens, the airways become narrow and cause breathing to become difficult.
• Thickening of the airways: This refers to the swelling of the lining of the tubes inside the airway. This swelling or inflammation results in there being inadequate space for the free movement of air in the airways.
• Blocking of the airways: This happens because mucus fills up the respiratory airways and prevents free passage of air.
All of the above can happen at the same time or one at a time.
Causes Of Asthma
The specific or exact cause of asthma is yet to be determined. However, a few factors have been found to contribute to asthma. They include the following:
• Genetic and hereditary factors: According to these factors, asthma could be passed down from the parents to their offspring.
• Environmental factors: Here, gas appliances like gas stoves are considered a major contributing factor. In addition, inhaling dust mites, cigarette smoke, toxic fumes, and exposure to allergens can increase the risk of asthma, especially in children. Exposure to air pollution can occur both at home and workplace. In general, inhaling substances considered toxic and irritating to the lungs can lead to asthma.
Symptoms Of Asthma
If a person has asthma, these are some of the common symptoms that they will exhibit:
• Wheezing: This is a high-pitched sound produced by the chest during breathing.
• Difficulty in breathing and sometimes shortness of breath.
• Coughing: This might be persistent in severe cases of asthma. This cough is usually strength-sapping.
• Tightness or a feeling of tightness in the chest region.
Gas Cooking Can Worsen Asthma Symptoms
The use of gas appliances in most Australian homes has significantly increased the cases of childhood asthma in Australia. Reputable medical journals provide evidence linking the use of gas stoves and other gas appliances to cook with the increased risk of asthma both in children and adults.
Research proves that most Australian homes that use gas cooking appliances have a high rate of reported cases of childhood asthma. Additionally, the daily use of gas to cook can trigger emergency cases in adults that already suffer from asthma.
Children with asthma have susceptible airways that could easily get irritated by triggers such as fumes from the gas cooker. In addition to asthma, the daily use of gas to cook can also lead to other respiratory medical conditions.
What Are The By-Products Of Combustion?
When gas is utilised for cooking or heating a space, it produces toxic by-products that pollute the environment and affect your indoor air quality. Some of the by-products of gas combustion that cause household air pollution include:
Carbon monoxide (CO)
This combustion by-product contributes to asthma and other respiratory diseases or even worsens their symptoms. When tested, carbon monoxide (CO) is detected in high concentrations in the indoor air of homes that utilise gas stoves or appliances daily. Carbon monoxide is reported to cause a decrease in lung functionality in patients with asthma or other underlying respiratory conditions.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
This is another by-product emitted during gas combustion. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) has a suffocating or choking smell that is very bad for asthmatic people as it can worsen the symptoms. Besides asthma, when emitted, sulphur dioxide can cause irritation to the eyes, mucus membrane, nose, throat, and mouth.
The effects of sulphur dioxide include sneezing, coughing, bronchitis, and chronic airway obstruction, affecting asthmatic and non-asthmatic patients. But, elderly patients and children with asthma are more sensitive and susceptible to the effects of sulphur dioxide.
Formaldehyde is a colourless gas featuring a strong smell. Like sulphur dioxide, it is a by-product of combustion and has a strong aroma and a suffocating effect on human beings. When formaldehyde comes into contact with fire, it gets converted into soot. This soot (a deep flaky, or powdery substance) gets emitted due to the incomplete burning of fossil fuels like natural gas or propane gas.
Formaldehyde has a long list of health effects on a person. Exposure to a high concentration of formaldehyde contributes to or gives rise to asthma in children. Additionally, frequent exposure can worsen symptoms in both adults and children already suffering from asthma. Furthermore, it is reported that consistent indoor exposure to formaldehyde in Australian homes can highly increase the prevalence of childhood asthma in Australia.
Nitrogen oxide (NO)
Reports from medical journals indicate that exposure to nitrogen oxides, especially nitrogen dioxide (NO2), poses a health risk. Inhaling air contaminated with nitrogen dioxide can worsen asthma symptoms, causing prolonged coughing and wheezing. It is essential to understand that short-term exposure to a high concentration of nitrogen dioxide associated with a gas cooking appliance can heighten the risk of asthma when compared to long-term exposure to it in a lower concentration.
This refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) of either a solid or liquid state with a diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometres. The particles in this category are so minute that they can only be identified under a microscope. To put it in perceptive, PM 2.5s are smaller than PM 10s, which are referred to as "fine particles." Due to their tiny size and light weight, PM 2.5s can stay longer in the air.
Direct inhalation of this particulate matter can trigger or worsen chronic diseases like asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems in children and adults. This particulate matter can penetrate the bloodstream and affect the patient's overall health. In most emergency hospitalisation cases of asthma, PM 2.5 is found to be the trigger.
A study published in related medical journals proves that long-term exposure to PM 2.5 can bring about plaque deposition in the arteries, which can result in vascular inflammation or cause the arteries to become stiff and eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke. Asides from contributing to asthma or increasing its risk, PM 2.5 equally impacts the climate and causes precipitation which is dangerous to the overall health of human beings.
The accumulation of all these particles in the air (primarily indoor air), without a doubt, has significant effects on human health. To further prove this, up to 12 per cent of childhood asthma in Australia is linked to the use of gas stoves alongside other household gas appliances.
Gas Appliances Are Not The Only Culprits
In addition to gas cooking, there are other causes of asthma in both children and adults. They include the following:
Use of unflued gas heaters
Using gas heaters also contributes to the rise of adult and childhood asthma. Using unflued gas heaters at schools and at home can cause poor indoor air quality. Over time, exposure to the by-products and toxic fumes from unflued gas heaters can harm the respiratory system and increase the overall risk of asthma in children and adults.
Gas extraction and production
This is another factor that contributes to an increase in asthma risk. During the production and extraction of gas, hazardous and harmful substances can be released. These toxic substances become airborne and pollute the immediate environment. These air pollutants can trigger asthma or cause permanent damage to a person's respiratory system.
Children living close to gas extraction and production sites like Coal Seam Gas Industries are at a higher risk of acquiring asthma and other related respiratory diseases.
Apart from asthma, the following diseases are related to the daily use of gas cookers and other gas appliances.
• Tumour growth (neoplasms)
• Diseases of the blood
• Impairment of the immune system of the body
• It also brings about a significant rise in hospitalisation and respiratory diseases in children
Safely Use Gas Appliances With Asthma
Ventilation is a good safety measure to ensure the safe use of gas cooking appliances in your household. Using a gas stove is compared to smoking indoors, and keeping your space ventilated could help reduce air pollution. The kitchen is the area that is the most susceptible to the accumulation of air pollutants linked to the use of gas stoves and other gas cooking appliances.
The most effective way to ensure proper air ventilation in your home is using range hoods. Range hoods are designed to remove air pollutants by drawing the air upwards and out of the kitchen. The National Asthma Council Australia concludes that installing and using highly efficient range hoods in Australian homes can reduce the rate of childhood asthma by approximately 3-12 per cent.
In the absence of a range hood, installing an exhaust fan in your kitchen can also help to keep it ventilated. Turn your range hood or exhaust fan on while cooking to keep your kitchen ventilated. Also, this might seem obvious but leaving your windows open while cooking can ensure proper air ventilation and reduce the circulation of gas by-products.
Must You Switch Gas Stoves For Electric Ones?
Gas is a fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are the primary driving force contributing to extreme weather events that are risky to human health. Now you have a sound understanding of how cooking with a gas stove or cooker impacts you and the household members, the choice is yours.
It is vital to undertake the necessary steps to guarantee that your space is free from gas combustion, air pollutants, and triggers. Kicking the gas habit is considered the best way to reduce the risk of asthma-related to gas cooking indoors and outdoors. Switching to an alternative electric cooking appliance is considered a great measure toward diminishing the rate of childhood asthma in Australian homes.
Also, switching out your unflued gas heater for one with a flue can help keep your home safe from gas stove-related air pollution. Reach out to a reliable gas fitting company near you for the best results.