Background: There is evidence from some studies that people living in homes with gas stoves and other unvented gas appliances experience more respiratory symptoms than those who use other fuels for cooking and heating, but other studies have found no such association. We have investigated whether the use of gas appliances is associated with an increased risk of respiratory symptoms and whether sensitisation to common environmental allergens modifies any such association.
Methods: A stratified random sample of 15,000 adults aged 20-44 years, living in three towns in East Anglia, UK, were sent a questionnaire on asthma and hayfever. From those who responded, a random sample of 1864 were invited to complete an extended questionnaire that included questions on use of gas appliances, to give blood samples for measurements of total IgE and specific IgE to common allergens, and to undergo tests of respiratory function, 659 women and 500 men agreed to an interview. The association of the use of gas appliances with respiratory symptoms, total IgE, specific IgE, and respiratory function was assessed by logistic and multiple regression models.
Findings: Women who reported they mainly used gas for cooking had an increased risk of several asthma-like symptoms during the past 12 months including wheeze (odds ratio 2.07 [95% CI 1.41-3.05]), waking with shortness of breath (2.32 [1.25-4.34]), and asthma attacks (2.60 [1.20 -5.6]). Gas cooking increased the risk of symptoms more in women who were atopic than in non-atopic women but the difference did not reach significance (p . 0.05). Women who used a gas stove or had an open gas fire had reduced lung function (forced expiratory volume in 1 s [FEV1]) and increased airways obstruction (FEV1 as a percentage of forced vital capacity) compared with women who did not. These associations were not observed in men.
Interpretation: In East Anglia, the use of gas cooking is significantly associated with subjective and objective markers of respiratory morbidity in women but not in men. Women may be more susceptible than men to the products of gas combustion or they may have greater exposure to high concentrations of these products because they cook more frequently than men.