If you’re looking to reduce your exposure to the pollutants emitted from fuel-burning appliances, there are some easy things you can do now to improve air quality in your home.
What do we know about health harms resulting from appliances that burn fuel?
According to a comprehensive review of existing research on the health, indoor air quality and environmental impacts of indoor fuel use, the use of combustion within the home (usually in the form of methane “natural” gas, propane, or wood) contributes to several health risks. Exposure to the pollutants emitted can worsen asthma symptoms, cause wheezing, and result in reduced lung function in children and other vulnerable populations, particularly in the absence of ventilation and for children living with asthma or allergies.
Additionally, based primarily on studies of outdoor air, a large body of research over the last 50 years has established that exposure to pollutants emitted from fuel-burning appliances (mostly nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and air toxics like formaldehyde) contributes to a variety of diseases including heart disease and stroke, asthma, COPD, lung cancer, type 2 diabetes, premature birth and increased rick of respiratory infection.
Not all people are affected the same way by living with fuel-burning appliances. Some are more susceptible to health harm than others, including children, individuals who are pregnant and people with lung disease. The age, location, and condition of the appliance; how much you use it; and whether or not you ventilate the emissions to the outside also make a difference.
The American Lung Association is recommending a transition away from the use of fuel-burning appliances to protect both health and the environment. When in a position to do so, families can look into transitioning to cleaner, non-combustion alternatives such as electric cooking, heat pumps and other appliances. In the meantime, there is a lot you can do right now to reduce your exposure to pollution from your gas appliances.
What can you do to improve your indoor air quality?
If you rely on fuel-burning appliances for heating or cooking, here are some immediate steps you can take to reduce your risk from exposure to harmful pollutants:
- Make sure your appliances are in proper working order.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors.
- Use ventilation, especially in the kitchen, such as a stove range hood that vents to the outside or opening a window, during and after appliance use.
- Take advantage of incentive and rebates available from utilities and government programs to purchase safer and cleaner heating systems, water heaters, clothes dryers and stoves. The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act offers several of these programs intended to provide money to homeowners who choose to upgrade their existing appliance to a newer, cleaner electric one.
Additional information about indoor air pollution generally can be found at Lung.org/Healthy-Efficient-Homes.
Blog last updated: October 18, 2023