Oakland, Calif. -- The gas-fired appliances found in 90 percent of Californian's homes cause unhealthy air and drive annual healthcare costs into the billions, according to new research from UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. The value of clean air has never been more clear as families stay at home to avoid COVID-19, but gas-fired furnaces, water heaters, and cooking appliances release thousands of tons of harmful pollutants into the air each year.
Specifically, the report finds that cutting the pollution caused by burning gas in our homes would lead to the following annual outcomes:
- Save 350 lives
- Prevent 900 cases of respiratory illnesses
- Lower healthcare costs by $3.5 billion
The report also finds that the low-income and environmental justice communities that breathe the worst air outside their homes are the most at risk from gas-fired appliance pollution inside their homes. These Californians typically live in smaller homes with older appliances and they are more likely to be renters without control over their appliances, so they are in most need of action on this issue from policymakers.
“California’s state agencies often focus on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts, but there has been much less focus on how fossil fuel use in household appliances can adversely impact indoor air quality and public health,” said lead researcher and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Professor Yifang Zhu. “The goal of this report is to provide information to Californians on how pollution from gas-fired appliances affects the air they breathe, and the related health effects,”
This month, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health released a report about how exposure to particulate matter (PM 2.5), a key pollutant from homes with gas-fired appliances, is associated with an increase in the COVID-19 death rate, highlighting just how dangerous prolonged exposure to gas pollution is to the health and well-being of Californians.
“In the midst of this ongoing global health crisis, the value of clean air has never been more important to Californians and their families,” said Physicians for Social Responsibility board member Dr. Robert Gould. “This report highlights both long and short term solutions California’s decision makers can take to accelerate the shift to safer and healthier pollution-free homes and buildings.”
“The public health and air quality benefits of switching from gas-fired appliances to emission-free, all-electric appliances will not be realized at the pace or scale needed without support from California's policymakers and regulators,” said deputy director of the Sierra Club building electrification program, Rachel Golden. “Decision makers at all levels of government have an important role to play in reducing pollution from gas appliances, and doing so in a way that prioritizes and protects those most burdened by air pollution, like children, elderly, low income and environmental justice communities.”
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 690 students from 25 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is a nonprofit organization representing medical and health professionals and concerned citizens, with approximately 40,000 members and supporters and with chapters in major cities and medical schools throughout the United States. PSR has been working for more than 55 years to create a healthy, just and peaceful world for both present and future generations.