Burning Fossil Fuels in Buildings Endangers the Health and Well-Being of New Yorkers.
As health organizations and health professionals working in New York State, we write to alert the public and our state leaders that burning fossil fuels in buildings endangers the health and well-being of New Yorkers. We urgently call on the Governor and State Legislature to enact the All Electric Building Act (S562A/A920A) during this year’s budget to end the use of gas (and other fossil fuels) in new construction, starting with new permits at the beginning of 2024.
Although policy makers and the public, influenced by fossil fuel industry misinformation, have long overlooked the serious public health problems associated with burning gas (and other fossil fuels) in the home, the facts are well-documented and the need for urgent action to protect the health of New Yorkers cannot be more clear:
- Health risks inside homes due to gas stove pollution are well-documented in numerous studies.
- Burning fossil fuels in the home produces toxic indoor pollutants including carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and particulate matter (PM2.5). Exposure to elevated pollution emissions from gas stoves can exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma and is linked to other health risks like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and harmful reproductive impacts.
- New peer-reviewed research demonstrates that almost 19% of all cases of childhood asthma in New York State can be linked to air pollution from having a gas stove in the home.
- The American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest medical society, recognizes that cooking with a gas stove increases household air pollution and the risk of childhood asthma.
- Numerous studies over the past 40 years have shown that indoor air pollution from gas stoves can reach levels that would exceed the standards for outdoor air pollution, and indoor concentrations are often much higher than health-protective guidelines set by the World Health Organization.
- Harvard research shows that gas from stoves contains multiple potentially harmful chemical compounds, including benzene, a carcinogen for which there is no safe level of exposure.
- Electric induction stoves heat up food more efficiently than gas, creating less waste heat in the kitchen, especially important during periods of extreme heat and for residents of urban heat island neighborhoods, which tend to be disproportionately lower-income and communities of color. Extreme heat is the number one weather-related killer in America, responsible for over 130 deaths in New York City per year, a number that could increase to more than 3,300 deaths annually by 2080.
Fossil fuels burned in buildings for heating, hot water, and cooking also contribute dangerous pollution like NO2 and PM2.5 particles to the air New Yorkers breathe outside. For example:
- New York’s buildings currently emit 43,000 tons of NOx pollution, more than buildings in any other state. Outdoors, NOx leads to the formation of ozone “smog,” and New York consistently violates health-protective air quality standards for smog set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Ozone smog exposure has been linked to increases in respiratory conditions and even premature mortality.
- Outdoor PM2.5 pollution from burning fuels in our buildings led to an estimated 1,300 early deaths in New York in 2017, which translates to roughly $14.4 billion in health impact costs in 2017.
- PM2.5 exposure is associated with dementia, decreased IQ in children, and poor pregnancy outcomes (stillbirth, preterm birth, and low-birth weight), with Black mothers especially at risk. Exposure to PM2.5 poses the highest risk to children, the elderly, and people who are pregnant and have other chronic conditions.
- People of color in New York are exposed to 2.6 times as much outdoor PM2.5 pollution from residential gas appliances as whites.
Communities of color are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air in general and are also more likely to be living with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease that make them more vulnerable to the negative health impacts of air pollution.
According to the American Lung Association’s 2022 State of the Air Report, New York again ranked in the top 25 metropolitan areas in the country for days with unhealthy levels of air pollution.
Based on all we now know from the robust scientific evidence about the damaging impacts of indoor combustion of fossil fuels on New Yorkers’ health, as health organizations and health professionals, we are united in urgently calling on the Governor and State Legislature to immediately enact the All-Electric Building Act (S562A/A920A) during this year’s budget to end the use of gas (and other fossil fuels) in new construction, starting with new permits at the beginning of 2024.
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
American Lung Association
Clean + Healthy
Concerned Health Professionals of New York
Green & Healthy Homes Initiative
Interfaith Public Health Network
LSA Family Health Service, Inc.
National Center for Healthy Housing
New York State Public Health Association
New York Clinicians for Climate Action
Physicians for Social Responsibility – New York
Gus Birkhead, MD, MPH
Steve Callahan, Retired PTA
Larysa M Dyrszka, MD
Steven J Goldstein, MD
Kristie Hadley, MD, MPH
David E Jacobs, PhD, CIH
Ray Lopez, Chief Program Officer/CHW
Emma McBride, PhD
Christine Montierde, PNP
Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL
Ruth Ann Norton, President and CEO
Carmi Orenstein, MPH
Bob Pezzolesi, MPH
Patrick Thomas Schnell, MD
Barton Schoenfeld, MD, FACC
Sarah Townley, RN ANP-BC FNP MPH
Cynthia Trubisky, MSEd, AE-C
(list in formation, last updated March 20, 2023, 1pm)