Cooking and wheezing with gas
SCIENCE NEWS March 16, 1996 pg. 170
If preparing dinner leaves you a trifle short of breath, perhaps you should evaluate the range of cooking preparations involved. British researchers find that women who cook with gas are at least twice as likely to experience wheezing, shortness of breath, and other symptoms of asthma as those who prepare meals using electric cooktops and ovens.
This association held even when the cooks regularly used exhaust fans. Deborah Jarvis and her coworkers at St. Thomas' Hospital in London surveyed respiratory symptoms for a year among 659 women and 500 men, aged 20 to 44, living in one of three provincial towns in eastern England. In addition to describing the heating appliances in their homes, most participants also provided blood samples and submitted to tests of lung function.
The questionnaire and tests link gas cooking not only to asthma but also to slightly diminished lung function, the researchers reported in the Feb. 17 LANCET. Moreover, these effects showed up only in women, probably because they spend more time in the kitchen than men do.
Small impairments in lung function also showed up among those participants who heated rooms or water with an open gas fire, again only among women. Though smokers were no more likely to develop symptoms than nonsmokers, those who did experience problems tended to develop more serious ones.
Other studies have implicated the pollutants from indoor gas appliances in the frequency and severity of asthmatic episodes in children. That link tended to be weaker, however, perhaps because children spend less time close to a gas range's flames, suggest Michael Brauer and Susan M. Kennedy of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in a commentary accompanying the Lancet article.
Jarvis and her team calculate that swithcing to electric ranges might cut wheezing and breathlessness among women by up to 48 percent.
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