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Gas Industry’s Tactics to Undermine Gas Stove Health Risks Mirrored Tobacco Industry’s Playbook

by Anna

In 1976, celebrity chef Julia Child returned to WGBH-TV for her new cooking show, “Julia Child & Company,” with her improved studio kitchen, funded by the American Gas Association. Little did viewers know that this corporate sponsorship was part of a calculated campaign by gas industry executives to boost gas stove usage in the United States, aiming to expand their residential market.

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A recent study by the nonprofit Climate Investigations Center reveals that, similar to the tactics employed by the tobacco industry in the 1950s, the gas industry engaged in strategies to undermine scientific evidence related to the health effects of gas stove use. The American Gas Association, when faced with early 1970s evidence about health risks associated with indoor nitrogen dioxide exposure from gas stoves, launched a campaign to manufacture doubt about the existing science.

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These strategies, orchestrated by Hill & Knowlton, the same PR firm that handled the tobacco industry’s response to smoking-related research, included funding research to counter existing findings, emphasizing uncertainty to create artificial controversy, and vigorous public relations efforts.

Despite clear scientific evidence linking gas stoves to indoor air pollution and respiratory health issues, the gas industry’s campaign successfully stalled federal investigations and regulations addressing gas stove safety. Their efforts continue today, as new research indicates that gas stoves contribute to childhood asthma, affecting approximately 12.7% of cases in the United States.

The controversy surrounding residential gas use is further exacerbated by its implications for climate change, as it hinders the transition to renewable energy. Several cities have considered banning gas stoves in new construction projects to promote electrifying buildings and address climate concerns.

To ensure public awareness and informed decisions regarding gas stoves and other household products, it is vital to expose the tactics used by vested interests to manipulate the public, ultimately making consumers, regulators, and policymakers more vigilant and deterring other industries from adopting similar practices.

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