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Advocacy Update March 2020

Stepping up NOx Regulations

The South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (AQMD’s) are developing new Ultra Low NOx standards for natural gas appliances. NOx is a short term that refers to nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are byproducts of the combustion process. NOx emissions are a significant contributor to air pollution. NOx emissions can cause serious health concerns in humans and are responsible for acid rain and the brown cloud most of us refer to as smog. 

The Environmental Protection Agency refers to NOx as “a family of poisonous, highly reactive gasses.” Multiple studies have linked NOx emission levels to respiratory health conditions, such as Asthma. The changes to the standards will force manufactures to produce new gas appliances, such as furnaces and water heaters, that comply with the stricter standards.

Perhaps the easiest solution for many situations will be to eliminate the NOx by using heating appliances that do not rely on combustion. Electric heat pumps can replace their gas counterparts and provide increased efficiency with zero combustion byproducts, as they rely on refrigerants vs. combustion to produce heat.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Asthma

In December of 2019, the Massachusetts Medical Society approved a policy to raise physician and public awareness of the health concerns cooking with natural gas and pediatric Asthma

There is overwhelming evidence that indoor air pollution from cooking with natural gas increases the risk of childhood Asthma. The situation gets worse as we strive to build tighter houses to improve comfort and reduce energy consumption. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has conducted tests that demonstrate cooking with gas can expose occupants to pollutant levels that would be illegal outdoors.

Using over-the-cooktop range hoods can help reduce the potential impacts, but most are insufficient to mitigate the risks entirely. In response to this information, the California Energy Commission is providing $1m in funding to study natural gas cooking. The study will examine the impacts of cooking with gas, its effects on indoor air quality, and the link to respiratory disease.  

This information makes a strong case for using electric cooking alternatives, such as induction cooktops. Induction cooktops provide the control of gas without the harmful byproducts related to the combustion of natural gas.

Charley Cormany
Executive Director