GreenTown Los Altos

Choice, Gas Stoves and Reach Codes – A Sound Resolution


May 2020


I LOVE my gas stove. But as a pediatrician, I also love keeping families healthy and working to leave our children a clean environment for their kids.  So how do I think about Reach Codes and the switch to all electric appliances in new construction in Los Altos? Two realizations convinced me that we must make the change, and the sooner the better.

For background, I should tell you I moved here from Boston, where I lived in a wood house built in 1796. We heated with a wood stove and an oil burning furnace.  So when I moved here to a home with gas heat and a gas stove, I thought, wow! This is so much cleaner—and it smells better too. A huge improvement in the indoor air quality my lungs were used to. I believed that gas energy was a bridge to a cleaner future, one where all our energy would be electric from renewable carbon free sources.

The first thing that convinced me to support Reach Codes was understanding that our energy sources here in California are getting cleaner and cleaner all the time. Put in gas appliances, and the home burns fossil fuel for the life of the home, contributing to global warming. Put in electric appliances, especially modern induction cook tops, heat pumps for heating and cooling, etc., and as the energy grid becomes cleaner, the energy use for that home becomes cleaner and cleaner too. These Reach Codes will not take away gas from those homes that use it now. But going forward, the homes in Los Altos will contribute much less to global warming. It’s our way of helping the planet, and the time is now. 

For those who need more convincing, I highly recommend this short, beautifully written piece in the New England Journal of Medicine: The False Promise of Natural Gas

Secondly, I realize that in addition to the community and global benefits of cleaner energy, there are very real direct benefits to one’s own health, in one’s own home. My work with the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health has given me a much better appreciation of the negative health effects of burning fossil fuel inside our homes. Did you know that:

  • After cooking for one hour with a gas stove and oven, peak levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) inside the kitchen are so high they exceed both state and national outdoor acute air-quality standards in more than 90 percent of the homes modeled.
  • Children who grow up in a home with a gas stove are 42 percent more likely to develop asthma than those who don’t.
  • Even for adults, exposure to the combustion pollutants of gas stoves (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter and volatile organic compounds) increases wheezing, cough, bronchitis and vulnerability to infection (like COVID-19).
  • Exhaust fans should be used every time we turn on a burner, but most people don’t realize this.

There are so many exposures we can’t avoid, it’s all the more important to avoid the ones we can!

I’m convinced that adopting Reach Codes for Los Altos is the right thing to do. Better for the planet, better for Los Altos, and better for our lungs and general health.

No one is forcing me to give up my gas stove—but I’m going to use the exhaust fan every time I cook from now on, and when it comes to replacement, I’ll go electric.  

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