SOUNDVIEW, the Bronx – A new study that followed a small group of public housing residents in the Bronx found reductions in indoor air pollution after replacing gas stoves with electric.
The Bronx has the highest asthma rates in the state, and WE ACT, an environmental justice group, set out to see if electric stoves could not only improve the planet, but also public health.
“70% of New York City greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels in our buildings,” said Sonal Jessel, director of policy at WE ACT.
The study replaced gas stoves in 10 apartments at 1471 Watson Avenue at Sotomayor Houses while 10 other apartments kept their gas stoves. The group installed devices in the 10 units with electric stoves to monitor the difference in indoor air pollution.
During the 10-month period, Annie Carfaro, the climate justice campaigns coordinator at WE ACT, said the units with the electric stoves experienced a 35% decrease in daily nitrogen dioxide levels.
“Exposure to nitrogen dioxide can cause damage to the human respiratory tract and increase a person’s vulnerability to and severity of repository infections and asthma,” said Carfaro.
Carbon monoxide levels also lowered, the study found. Not one participant asked for their stove back after the study.
“I have a 5-year-old son that lives with me, so anything that’s going to put us in good health, I’m all down for,” said tenant Ayanna Kai-Sutton.
“I definitely noticed a difference,” said tenant Mary Rivera. “I have asthma and I didn’t know that the gas stove was contributing to it, but now I have no cough. I don’t feel congested like before.”
Participants also reported how much time they saved while cooking and cleaning, their decreased reliance on other appliances, and the safety they felt by not using gas in their homes.
The building is planned to be NYCHA’s first all-electric conversion. Francis Rodriguez, the director of weatherization at the Association for Energy Affordability, said the transition will be difficult.
“It will require a full electrical upgrade of the building and also of the apartments, which will be time-consuming and very costly,” Rodriguez said.
Tenant Association President Carmen Hernandez is encouraging others to be out with the old and in with the new.
“Don’t be afraid of change,” Hernandez said. “Accept it because this is going to better your health, your community [and] your way of life.”
WE ACT hopes that this will jumpstart bigger studies and policies so that affordable housing tenants are part of the energy transition away from fossil fuels.