Most academic papers published go largely unnoticed. A few gain global attention. This week’s paper was one of those. It was featured from the UK Daily Mail “One in EIGHT childhood asthma cases are linked to gas stoves, study warns” (Ref 1) to the US Washington Post “Gas stove pollution causes 12.7% of childhood asthma, study finds” (Ref 2).
The paper was called “Population Attributable Fraction of Gas Stoves and Childhood Asthma in the United States” and it was by Gruenwald et al (Ref 3).
The lead author works for RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute) and RMI was one of two funders of the report. The other funder was the US National Cancer Institute. RMI wants a carbon free world (Ref 4). There’s upfront motive for an attack on gas cookers.
The first sentence of the abstract of the paper stated, "Indoor gas stove use for cooking is associated with an increased risk of current asthma among children and is prevalent in 35% of households in the United States (US)." This paper did not, therefore, discover an association between gas stoves and childhood asthma. It stated that this association existed and then proceeded to model numbers to estimate the proportion of childhood asthma attributable to gas stove use.
The word “model(s)” appeared only once in the paper. The word “estimate(s)” appeared five times. This was a modelling exercise which could only estimate. This fact was lost in the global reporting. As we always state, models are only as valid as their assumptions. This one assumed that gas stoves and childhood asthma were associated from the outset.