A new study has just solved one of climate science’s biggest mysteries – where does all that methane come from?
Scientists have been stunned for years by an apparent gap in known methane sources and the amount of methane that the earth heats.
Although it has been known for some time that the primary sources of methane are the natural gas industry, livestock operations and landfills, those sources are not fully responsible for the amount of methane that accumulates in the atmosphere each year.
As one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, researchers were eager to discover the mysterious extra source of the invisible gas.
Gas stoves leak methane
To solve this mystery, researchers decided to take a closer look at the home — namely, gas-fired ovens. Found in more than 40 million homes across the U.S., gas furnaces and series are a not insignificant source of methane production because, as it turns out, they leak methane not only when in use, but also when burners are turned off.
For the new study, researchers researched 53 homes, rental properties and Airbnb’s across California and found that gas stoves were the unexpected culprit. Using specialized equipment that measures the wavelength of light to determine the amount of certain gases present, the study authors were surprised to find that nearly 75% of the methane leakage came from gas stoves when the unit was turned off.
In the course of a year, gas stoves in the US will leak enough methane to have a climate impact compared to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by 500,000 cars over a year, according to the study.
Methane, in large quantities, can displace oxygen into the environment, causing breathing problems. But study co-author Eric Lebel, Ph.D.tell Paternal that the amount of methane that is likely to be collected in your home is not enough to cause any health care for you or your children. “We are not so worried about methane concentrations in the home, especially about the concentrations that will be produced from the leaks we saw in this study,” Lebel said.
However, methane is flammable in large quantities. “There is a safety hazard associated with methane as it can explode when the concentration becomes too high. This is why gas companies add a sulfur compound to the gas to give it that rotten egg smell so you can smell it. If you ever smell gas in your home, it is important to have it checked immediately. ”
Nitrogen dioxide in the house is more dangerous than methane
The study authors also tested for another greenhouse gas — nitrogen dioxide—which poses more immediate health concerns as methane. “We also measured nitrogen dioxide, which is a respiratory irritation and is released by the gas stove while it is in use,” Lebel said.
“We have found that nitrogen dioxide is released in direct proportion to the amount of gas burned. So if you turn on a burner, use a larger burner or light an additional burner, you will generate more nitrogen dioxide. ”
A 2017 study found that cooking on gas burners can increase indoor nitrogen dioxide concentrations above what the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe levels for outdoor air.
Nitrogen dioxide can aggravate chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and can even cause asthma in children, according to reporting by NPR.
Do you have to give up your gas stove?
Cooking with gas can be a difficult habit to break — many people with gas ovens and ranges swear by it and fear the thought of returning to electric hobs and ovens. However, the switch may not be completely necessary from an indoor air quality point of view.
a 2021 study covered by Paternal suggested that the best thing to do is to use the exhaust hood if you have one every time you light a burner, and, if you can afford it, to switch to an electric stove, points provided by Lebel echoes.
“If your stove has reached the end of its life and you are planning to get a new stove anyway, electric stoves are typically better for indoor air quality and for the climate, depending on whether your electricity is obtained from renewable energy (which fast is growth), ”said Lebel.
“For the reasons set out in this paper and other studies, electric stoves also make sense in new construction. However, if you have a functional gas stove and do not have the financial means to replace it, it is not necessary to replace it immediately; Make sure you use the ventilation hood if you have one every time you light a fire. ”