Cooking Safely with Gas


By April Khan, Appliances Connection This is a topic that has always been an interest of mine. Partly because I had always used electric ranges growing up, and partially because I moved to the UK where gas ranges were everywhere.

When I went to the UK I was forced to use a gas cooktop. The reason, I say forced is because it wasn?t my primary choice. You see, I had grown up with a fear of gas ovens and fireplaces. When I was very young, I saw a tragic news brief about a whole family that had accidentally left their burners on unignited. Because of the images that followed, I vowed to never use gas cooking appliances in life.

Obviously, I was a young child, so it was kind of traumatic (should have listened to my mom and gone to bed when I was asked).

As a junior chef (in my own mind) I am beginning to realize just how important gas is to cooking with precision. I cook a lot of Indian and Spanish foods, so a good fire contact under a heavy cast-iron pan is precisely what?s needed at all times. I also bake a lot so gas is a must.

I decided to look into the whole gas safety thing just for peace of mind.

There are plenty of safety measure that you can use to safeguard your house from tragedies like the one I listed above. There are also a number of things you can do to educate others about gas safety.

First, we?ll get to some information you might find online that totally isn?t true.

Gas Causes Cancer ? Myth Busted

This is probably the biggest myth about gas ovens circulating the web today. Five years ago, there was a study that pointed to Fracked Natural Gas as a possible carcinogen. However, this study was grossly taken out of context. In fact, Cancer Research came out immediately to clear up this misconception.

The original study, published by the British Medical Journal, found that potentially troublesome carcinogens were emitted in the cook?s range (the area around the range where the cook stands) around gas ranges. This study compared the cook?s range surrounding both electric and gas ranges.

The chemicals they detected were:
  • Naphthalene (may ?possibly? cause cancer, but there?s not enough research to prove it.)
  • Aldehydes ? some of these can damage DNA, but only in large amounts
The article ends by saying ?but are the chemical ranges found dangerous?? Of course that scared the life out of everyone as the article mentioned no levels and no result ranges. Let?s clear that up.

The actual safe chemical threshold PAHs like the ones listed above is 40 micrograms per square meter. What was detected in the study was 150 times below that level at 0.27 micrograms per square meter. As far as particles released (of which the study detected 7.2) the safety threshold is 10 micrograms per square meter, once again well below the danger zone.

Oh, and as a side note, the study was conducted on participants in rural China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Why is this important? Ventilation is poorer in these kitchens and there is a lot more frying involved in everyday cooking than there is in the average western kitchen. Lastly the test was conducted in a food service environment, not in a home. So, to conclude, you?ve got nothing to worry about.

Carbon Monoxide ? Facts and Fiction

CO is an odorless gas.? It is emitted from any object that uses fuel as an energy source. This includes cars, stoves, fireplaces and furnaces. Carbon Monoxide itself is deadly in moderate concentrations, which is why it?s super important to have these items serviced regularly. It?s also important to use them in well ventilated areas.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, most healthy persons are okay in concentrations of 1 to 70 ppm; however, heart patients may experience increased chest pains. Levels greater than 70 ppm begin to cause mild symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning such as headache, nausea and fatigue. Concentrations over 150 ppm can contribute to more severe symptoms such as disorientation, unconsciousness and even death.

So how do you know if your gas appliances are emitting too much CO?

The best way to tell is to have a carbon monoxide detector installed. The detector will not only look for the presence of CO, but it will also alert you if the amount emitted is approaching an unsafe level. Check your home carbon monoxide detector and change the batteries regularly. Most CO detectors beep if the battery level is low.

How much Carbon Dioxide does the average kitchen range produce?

The average kitchen range is designed to produce less than 800 ppm; however, field technicians can calibrate ranges to less than 50 ppm?s.

What if the Carbon Monoxide detector begins beeping?

If the alarm is beeping and the batteries have been changed, step outside immediately. DO NOT try to turn off the stove or range.

After you?re outside, call 911.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends following these steps:
  • Immediately move outside to fresh air.
  • Call your emergency services, fire department, or 911.
  • After calling 911, do a head count to check that all persons are accounted for. DO NOT reenter the premises until the emergency services responders have given you permission. You could lose consciousness and die if you go in the home.
  • If the source of the CO is determined to be a malfunctioning appliance, DO NOT operate that appliance until it has been properly serviced by trained personnel.
Older ranges are more likely to have CO leaks.

How to avoid CO poisoning

The easiest way to avoid CO poisoning is to make sure your oven is fully ignited when you turn it on. If the pilots don?t ignite after a few seconds, switch them off and try them again. If they still aren?t lighting, switch them off and call a technician.

If you smell gas when you?re cooking, turn off the burners and call your gas provider.

Do not use your oven or range as a heating source in the winter.

Use a cooking hood to ventilate the kitchen and remove air pollutants. If you don?t have a hood, open a window to remove potentially dangerous chemicals.

Lastly, and more importantly, always have your CO detector tested and change the batteries often.
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