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Guest opinion: Let's protect Menlo Park's kids from the pollution inside our homes

Hala Alshahwany turns on her electric stove at her home in Mountain View on Oct. 22, 2019. Photo by Magali Gauthier

With wildfire season upon us, the threat of air pollution in our community becomes more pressing. The hazardous smoke that we breathe in each wildfire season is a threat to our health and the health of our children — past fires have [been linked to upticks in asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes. Just last year, at the height of the fire season, Menlo Park and the Bay Area experienced such hazardous air quality that it was measured as the worst air quality in the world at the time.

When the skies turn hazy and orange, we retreat inside our homes. However, we burn methane gas in our homes for heat and to cook our food. This gas unfortunately packs a double punch: it both significantly contributes to global warming and causes unhealthy pollution in our homes. We have already witnessed impacts of climate change in Menlo Park: wildfires, scorching temperatures and rising water levels threaten our community's safety. But also, as we use our gas appliances, we release toxic pollutants including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde into our homes. These byproducts are far from harmless. Using methane gas inside the home, such as cooking on a gas stove without adequate ventilation, has the potential to create pollution levels that would be illegal under air quality standards outdoors.

Children are particularly at risk of health effects from this gas pollution. Their immune and respiratory systems are still in development, and because they engage in more physical activity and have higher breathing rates than adults, they take in higher volumes of the toxic particles created by the burning gas. Studies have found that children in homes with gas stoves without adequate ventilation have higher rates of asthma compared to homes with electric appliances. They are also at risk of additional adverse health impacts including nose, throat and eye irritation, bronchitis, allergies, and respiratory and ear infections.

As a pediatrician, I know that every parent's priority is keeping their children healthy and I work with families each day to ensure that their children thrive. As a parent myself, I believe that our Menlo Park community and neighbors have the responsibility to create a healthier environment for our families. To do this, we must start inside our own homes.

Across Menlo Park, we are fortunate that our electricity is completely carbon free, and we should move away from gas inside our homes by making the switch to electric appliances. In the kitchen, this means swapping out gas stoves and ovens for electric or induction stoves. Heat pump heating and electric water heating are comparable in price to gas models (with local rebate programs) and can provide overall cost savings. Heat pump heating can also provide cooling from the same appliance, which will come in handy during wildfire seasons when smoky, polluted skies make it challenging to cool down Menlo Park homes by simply opening our windows. To ensure that everyone can afford the upfront costs of making the switch away from gas to reduce the pollutants that their families are exposed to, let's encourage our city leaders to support electrification in both new construction and existing homes.

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When we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, we not only prevent the harmful effects of burning pollutants in our homes, but also play a role in tackling the emissions that are contributing to our warming planet. Let's do our part to ensure that Menlo Park's children — and children all over the globe — have the opportunity to grow up in a safer, cleaner world.

Dr. Erika Drazan is a pediatrician who lives in Menlo Park.

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Guest opinion: Let's protect Menlo Park's kids from the pollution inside our homes

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Sat, Aug 7, 2021, 9:16 am

With wildfire season upon us, the threat of air pollution in our community becomes more pressing. The hazardous smoke that we breathe in each wildfire season is a threat to our health and the health of our children — past fires have [been linked to upticks in asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes. Just last year, at the height of the fire season, Menlo Park and the Bay Area experienced such hazardous air quality that it was measured as the worst air quality in the world at the time.

When the skies turn hazy and orange, we retreat inside our homes. However, we burn methane gas in our homes for heat and to cook our food. This gas unfortunately packs a double punch: it both significantly contributes to global warming and causes unhealthy pollution in our homes. We have already witnessed impacts of climate change in Menlo Park: wildfires, scorching temperatures and rising water levels threaten our community's safety. But also, as we use our gas appliances, we release toxic pollutants including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde into our homes. These byproducts are far from harmless. Using methane gas inside the home, such as cooking on a gas stove without adequate ventilation, has the potential to create pollution levels that would be illegal under air quality standards outdoors.

Children are particularly at risk of health effects from this gas pollution. Their immune and respiratory systems are still in development, and because they engage in more physical activity and have higher breathing rates than adults, they take in higher volumes of the toxic particles created by the burning gas. Studies have found that children in homes with gas stoves without adequate ventilation have higher rates of asthma compared to homes with electric appliances. They are also at risk of additional adverse health impacts including nose, throat and eye irritation, bronchitis, allergies, and respiratory and ear infections.

As a pediatrician, I know that every parent's priority is keeping their children healthy and I work with families each day to ensure that their children thrive. As a parent myself, I believe that our Menlo Park community and neighbors have the responsibility to create a healthier environment for our families. To do this, we must start inside our own homes.

Across Menlo Park, we are fortunate that our electricity is completely carbon free, and we should move away from gas inside our homes by making the switch to electric appliances. In the kitchen, this means swapping out gas stoves and ovens for electric or induction stoves. Heat pump heating and electric water heating are comparable in price to gas models (with local rebate programs) and can provide overall cost savings. Heat pump heating can also provide cooling from the same appliance, which will come in handy during wildfire seasons when smoky, polluted skies make it challenging to cool down Menlo Park homes by simply opening our windows. To ensure that everyone can afford the upfront costs of making the switch away from gas to reduce the pollutants that their families are exposed to, let's encourage our city leaders to support electrification in both new construction and existing homes.

When we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, we not only prevent the harmful effects of burning pollutants in our homes, but also play a role in tackling the emissions that are contributing to our warming planet. Let's do our part to ensure that Menlo Park's children — and children all over the globe — have the opportunity to grow up in a safer, cleaner world.

Dr. Erika Drazan is a pediatrician who lives in Menlo Park.

Comments

Matt
Registered user
Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Aug 7, 2021 at 11:51 am
Matt, Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2021 at 11:51 am

Don't forget cleaning supplies and anything else that emits vapors. The chemicals we all use in our day to day products can be very harmful. Especially endocrine disruptors.

For individual health, starting at home and looking at chemical exposure is probably the lowest hanging fruit there is.


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