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The Modern Gas Range (Stove)
Underpublicized Indoor Air Pollution
by Jim West
The modern gas range, common in most households, preferred by chefs for its facile heat control -- is an upublicized health disaster. It should be disconned, as should all other fired devices inside the home. They can leak gas even when turned completely off. Natural gas is not "natural gas". It contains many toxic components due to natural variability, industrial expediency and error.
There is very little information available regarding the components of "natural gas". Not much is known about industrial dumping into the natural gas supply lines. Natural gas, in even its pure form, even when burned at the best oxygen ratios, is very toxic. Exhaust toxicity in reality is much worse than advertised.
With lights out, turn on a stove burner, and notice the contaminants evidenced by flame colors other than blue, especially the yellow flashes. That's a primitive form of gas spectrographic analysis.
Find every connection to the stove, and every valve (manual or internal threaded screw type). Sniff these areas with your nose. There is a good chance you will find gas leaks, evidenced by the smell of hydrogen sulfide, added as a mandated safety feature to natural gas, which itself has no odor. These gas leaks are ongoing 24/7. These sources of unburned gas are toxic, containing things like natural gas (an loosely defined substance) and possibly PCBs used as pump lubricants, and possibly mercury, a natural gas contaminant, etc.
The burned gas, the exhaust, is toxic. Ideally, pure natural gas burns in two phases. First, natural gas is oxidized to heat, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide ("CO"). Secondly, those components are further oxidized to heat, water and carbon dioxide ("CO2"). The exhaust is advertized as harmless and lighter than air, wafting safely upward and away from the gas customer. That image is false.
In reality, the two phases do not occur ideally. Formaldehyde and many other toxic exhaust products enter the air, and don't waft away. The exhaust products diffuse through the air of the building, all densities of gases mix together because of molecular diffusion. An inexpensive CO2 meter can demonstrate this diffusion. Studies have shown that the toxicity of stove gas can be much more poisonous than automobile exhaust. The disease hazards are endless, cancer, etc. The chronic toxicity, the diseases, accumulate damage.
If you live in a wooden, air leaky residence, you are lucky. If you habitually keep a window open, you are smart or lucky. However, even those scenarios are hazardous on a windless day, or a cold day. Exhausts don't leave if there is no wind. They accumulate. Exhausts don't leave if the windows are closed due to cold weather. Some people even heat their house with their stove and the windows closed. The result can be heart ailments of all kinds, cancer of all kinds, GI tract dysfunction, and usually, the flu, or the common cold. Even Con Edison (NYC) states, "If you have colds..."
One window won't suffice. A cross-breeze is required to reliably remove exhausts from the building. An electric exhaust fan must be at the outgoing window. One cannot stand between that fan and the stove.
How do I know all this stuff?
I spent the last four years with earaches, seasonally occurring every November and lasting more or less two months. The symptoms were earaches, swelling glands in the ear, middle ear disease, pus and blood drainage. The common medical treatment is cleaning followed by antibiotics. As usual, orthodox medicine advocates a poisonous treatment for a poison disease. Though encountering great fear, wondering if I had brain cancer or meningitis, I held out, true to my belief in independent science and belief in the body-mind to find a solution. I faced the pain, realizing that the pain held the information I needed.
I assumed the problem was air pollution from Manhattan vehicular traffic and my increasing age (62). Vehicular air pollution is well known to cause all kinds of disease. All my other bases were covered: Nutrition was local, organic, and distilled my water. I kept the windows closed except during low pollution periods and own several air filters. The disease always disappeared when I travelled to the country. It must be Manhattan pollution. I was ready to move out of The City.
Finally, this last year, June 2009, I bought a CO2 meter, the least expensive and most reliable way to indicate exhaust pollution. I plugged its USB port into my computer and logged CO2 levels 24/7, then brought the readings into Excel spreadsheets for review.
To my amazement, the air pollution rose when I closed the windows. I assumed that was due to breath, expiration-inspiration. That was a factor, but air pollution was even higher when I left the apartment to go to the office. Eventually, to make a long story short, it took about a month to figure out that the source was the pilot lights on the kitchen stove. That was a shock! The stove was working perfectly normally. The pollution levels were high!
This should be a headline in The New York Times. But no. What a cold, cruel world.
Since that day, that revelation, my health is fine. No more earaches, or creeping meningitis symptoms, flu, or hourse voice. GI tract is greatly improved. I have repeatedly tested this thesis by exposing myself briefly to natural gas exhaust, in a common oblivious manner, while cooking. Glands in my ear canal quickly swell within a few minutes of exposure, and thus I now have a free, and very sensitive air pollution meter. Mainstream medicine would label me "chemically sensitive", and extensively treat my "allergies".
Our symptoms are great pollution meters. We shouldn't complicate the diagnoses.
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