Invisible Danger: Gas, Asthma and our Children

06.05.21 By
This content is more than 3 years old

NEW REPORT: The use of gas in homes is exposing Australian children to a higher risk of asthma, as well as driving climate change, a new Climate Council report has found.

“Cooking with gas is estimated to be responsible for up to 12 percent of the childhood asthma burden* in Australia,” said Climate Council spokeswoman and report author, Dr Kate Charlesworth.

“A child living with gas cooking in the home faces a comparable risk of asthma to a child living with household cigarette smoke,” she said.

The report, Kicking the Gas Habit: How Gas is Harming our Health, finds that gas commonly used for cooking and heating harms people’s health, while the process of extracting gas exposes communities to hazardous substances.

Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman said: “Australia has some of the highest rates of asthma in the world, and it is the leading cause of disease burden among school-aged children.”

“We should be doing everything possible to improve health outcomes for our children,” she said.

“Some people will be shocked to learn that cooking dinner on a gas stove could be contributing to their child’s asthma symptoms, we need education to improve awareness for indoor air pollution,” said Ms Goldman.

“People can take steps to reduce their risk by increasing ventilation, such as modern extraction fans over gas stoves, flues for gas heaters, and simple measures like opening windows. However, this won’t eliminate the risk completely,” she said.

Report key findings:

“Just as doctors spoke up on the dangers of asbestos and tobacco in the past, we have a responsibility now to sound the alarm on the dangers of gas,” said Dr Charlesworth. 

Gas extraction and processing involves many hazardous substances including those that cause cancer, interfere with childhood development, trigger asthma and contaminate the local environment through airborne pollution and wastewater.

“Gas is both directly hazardous to our health, and also as a fossil fuel, drives climate change, which worsens health risks related to extreme weather such as heatwaves, bushfires and intense storms,” said Dr Charlesworth.

“Governments can take simple, practical steps to protect Australians’ health, such as ending mandatory gas connections for new residential developments – as in the ACT – and offering incentives to people to replace gas appliances with electrical alternatives,” she said. 

“Australians who switch from gas to efficient electric appliances will save money, protect their family and improve the health and wellbeing of our communities,” said Dr Charlesworth.

“The Federal Government must abandon its dangerous, polluting and expensive plans to expand gas operations, and instead spend public money on scaling up clean, safe and affordable renewable energy,” she said.

*Burden of disease explained here

For interviews please contact Brianna Hudson on 0455 238 875 or Vai Shah on 0452 290 082.

A complete list of external gas experts; farmers; parents; and businesses and local governments is available here.

The Climate Council is Australia’s leading community-funded climate change communications organisation. We provide authoritative, expert and evidence-based advice on climate change to journalists, policymakers, and the wider Australian community.

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