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Electric Range: Friend or Foe During Pregnancy?

Even low levels of magnetic fields during pregnancy from electric cooktop induction stoves have been associated with an increased risk for miscarriage plus increased chances for childhood asthma, ADHD and obesity.

It’s no secret that gas stoves can pollute indoor environments with a variety of chemicals (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitrous oxides or aldehydes). Some studies show an increased public health burden attributed to gas stove use and childhood asthma.

It’s only common sense that an effective range exhaust fan/hood is absolutely essential during use. In fact, also opening a kitchen window when cooking with gas can often provide extra ventilation to help clear the air. However, for persons who are chemically-sensitive (e.g., allergic to a things such as perfumes, hand sanitizers, detergents, lotions or scented dryer sheets) this may not be enough. It may be helpful for this group to avoid cooking with gas stoves altogether.

So then, Gas = Bad; Electric = Good? The regulators should immediately pass a law to outlaw gas ranges everywhere, right? Well, not so fast…

Electric ranges, the “green” alternative you hear about in the news these days, pose a different set of challenges. Electric stoves are designed with either elements or coils that are directly heated by electricity. Through the process of electromagnetism, induction cooking energizes a metal coil to produce a transference of heat directly into cookware. The process of induction creates an EMF byproduct known as Alternating Current Magnetic Fields (AC-MFs). Significant associations have been observed between magnetic fields and unwanted, sometimes heartbreaking pregnancy outcomes.

The flow of current produces Magnetic Fields

In 1992, researchers in Finland published a workplace study showing that expecting women exposed to high magnetic field levels [>9 milligauss (mG)] while on the job had a 3.4 fold increased risk for miscarriage. Gauss is a measurement of magnetic energy. But what about magnetic field exposures at home? Ten years later, a California doctor designed an ingenious study and started to get some answers.

Can Magnetic Fields Within A Home Cause Miscarriages?

Researcher, De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, is a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California. In 2002, he published a cohort study of real-world exposure to non-ionizing radiation from AC magnetic fields in the homes of 913 pregnant women using wearable personal exposure monitors. Dr. Li made a concerning discovery: even low level in utero exposures to power frequency magnetic fields were associated with higher rates of miscarriage.

What’s more, the researchers found that exposure to more than 16 milligauss (mG) of electromagnetic energy increased a woman’s risk of miscarriage six times in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. In testing homes for couples, I’ve found that some electric cook top ranges can produce up to 30 mG of AC Magnetic Fields at close range.

Standing further away from a point source will reduce your magnetic field exposure–but exactly how far away should you stand? You won’t know unless you have your electric stove (and other kitchen appliances) tested with an accurate, high quality gaussmeter.

To measure AC Magnetic Fields I like to use the NFA1000 meter by Gigahertz Solutions because it’s precise and the Building Biology professional standard.

Are Magnetic Field Exposures Also Linked to Childhood Asthma, ADHD or Obesity?

Dr. Li discovered that miscarriage is not the only risk related to magnetic fields. He found that maternal exposures to more than 2 mG of magnetic fields have also been linked with increased incidence of asthma in children: every 1 mG increase in average exposure of the mother during pregnancy yielded a 15% increase in asthma rate. Fields of 2 mG and above have a 3.5 times rate of asthma [Li 2020].

In another study, children of mothers exposed to higher levels of MF had more than twice the risk of ADHD [Li 2020]. According to Devra Davis Ph.D., MPH epidemiologist and President of Environmental Health Trust:

This study showing a dramatic increase in ADHD tied with magnetic field radiation exposure confirms what dozens of other studies have previously indicated in animals. Electromagnetic fields exposure during pregnancy can damage the brain. We place every pregnant woman at risk if we fail to pay attention to these animal studies.”

Increased risk of childhood obesity was found in another study looking at magnetic field exposures during pregnancy. In-utero exposure to magnetic fields over 1.5 mG were associated with increased risk of obesity in childhood. In-utero exposure to relatively high magnetic field levels was associated with a 69 percent increased risk of being obese or overweight during childhood compared to lower in-utero magnetic field levels.

In light of what we know so far about magnetic fields, it looks like close proximity to electric cooktop induction stoves during operation may pose an unnecessary risk for pregnant moms.

So it’s not a clear-cut issue. Cooking with gas or electric produces emissions and harmful byproducts no matter what kind of stove is used. Ventilation is essential for gas while measuring magnetic fields and keeping a safe distance is essential for electric. Banning one type of a cooking appliance would seem to be short sighted.

If you’re in Southern California please contact me if you would like to schedule a Baby & Nursery Safe Home EMF Assessment. It would be a pleasure to support your goal of creating a healthy home.