Scientists? Concerns about induction and gas cooktops

dab07December 5, 2007

I'm weighing gas and induction and have a few questions:

Does anyone know if there's any solid research on the health effects of the magnetic fields created by induction cooktops? Having a background in human biology I'm concerned about it. After all, all of our biochemistry comes down to energy transfer - postives and negatives. (Same concern with MRIs.) I don't like the idea of interfering with it.

On the other hand, gas has the downside of potentially producing CO2 and CO -- not great for indoor air quality. Is this simply a matter of running the exhaust hood all the time while cooking?

OK, I'm a worry wart! I'd just like to know what's been researched. This probably isn't the best place to get answers to this, but since I was reading about induction here I thought I'd give it a try.

As if the choice of ranges isn't hard enough!

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mls99 cites research done and summarizes it on this page. The website is for induction and thus biased, but the research sources are listed.

Here is a link that might be useful: The induction site research summary and sources

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 2:46PM
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I think the statement....

On the other hand, gas has the downside of potentially producing CO2 and CO -- not great for indoor air quality

with the word potentially I know it should read "does produce" I know of no open flame at 30,000+ btu's an hour of gas burning with no containment as not impacting air quality. The only reason it is OK is that the toal burning is not high for long periods and most would turn the ventilation on to help dilute the products of combustion.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 4:08PM
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A number of years ago I remember hearing about a British Medical Journal published study that said that people with asthma and other respiratory problems should NOT have an electric cooktop.

One of my family members does have breathing problems, and when we bought a new stove, we bought an electric smoothtop. There was some improvement.

Obviously not a scientific study but it is logical.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 5:26PM
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I think that conate meant to say no to gas cooking for severe asthmatics.


Normal combustion produces little or no CO. CO is only produced (in practical amounts) when there is insufficient Oxygen for combustion. CO2 is produced, but in most houses there is sufficient exchange of air to create no problems. Remember, people have been cooking on gas for over 100 years with no demonstrable problems, except for those with severe asthma. Get a hood and you will be fine with gas.

Induction fields are in effect very short range (the magnetic field strength falls of the with square of the distance-i.e double the range and you have 1/4 the power) and are considered safe for pacemanker wearers.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 10:40PM
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conate, I'm not sure I understand, can you please clarify? What I'm getting from your post is that you have a member in the family with respiratory problems and you went out and bought an electric stove that you heard you should not buy and it made things better?

An electric cook top and electric smooth top are one in the same, both electric.

I remember having similar concerns about microwaves when they first came on the market. Now everyone owns at least one.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 6:20AM
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I agree in the presents of lots of oxygen the products of combustion are minimal. The burning of gas has been going on for 100 years and wood before that but we have tighten up the air exchange in our houses. High effeciency furnaces also vent directly to the outside. I'm going the induction route I had planned to go gas to "upgrade" from electice coils.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 7:06AM
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Gas is a explosion hazard. Do you really think it is safer to run an electric line to your cooktop or a gas line? Electric stoves do not exploded. Gas stoves do. I know, it has happened to me. Induction cooking is clearly safer on so many levels and much more efficient. As far as air contaminants, I do not want to have my vent on the entire time I am cooking and most people rarely do. I cannot wait to get rid of my gas stove and cooktop. My remodel cannot come fast enough.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 9:41AM
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One would think that if you do concerns about an induction top are more than a bit superfluous.
Personally, I'm a great fan of gas ranges (efficient, accurate, trouble free) and don't have a microwave or an electric rangetop. But that's out of personal bias and not any concern over EMF's.
Sidenote - Vllandry - properly installed and maintained gas stoves do NOT explode.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 9:59AM
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Gas is a explosion hazard ... Electric stoves do not exploded. Gas stoves do.

Well, true, electric ranges do not explode. But tell my neighbor across the street that electric ranges are inherently safer after their house almost burned down when their electric range caught fire.

By the way, did you have a working gas detector in your house at the time of the accident?

All methods of cooking entail some risk. Induction, on the face of it, may be a bit safer, but I worry about people who get used to induction burn themselves using a friends range someday, or grabbing a hot handle out of an oven, because they are lulled into unsafe practices using induction.

By the way, I have both induction and gas in my house.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 10:42AM
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Phillycook they do explode. Delayed ignition is more common than you think. As I can attest to. Mantles become plugged and ignitors fail. The idea of piping an explosive material into your home needs to be reviewed, closely. It is a form of risk-reduction.

As far as accuracy, I have had six ovens in the last 10 years and my electrics crushed my gas ovens in speed and control.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 10:43AM
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Humans produce CO2 no? At least until their gas stove explodes...

Charred food contains polynuclear (or nukular if you're George Bush) aromatic hydrocarbons (carcinogens), veggis probably have pesticides and heavy metals from the soil(In CA the soil is chock full of arsenic), your cell phone/microwave/cordless equipment has electromagnetic fields, your car is full of explosive/ cancer causing materials (as well as produces CO, CO2, etc.), meat contains PCBs, metals, pesticides, Fish contains pesticides, PCBs, mercury, lead...

The point is, we're all gonna die and other than the increased risk you take every day by getting in a car, nothing mentioned on this page will increase the likliness of this happening any sooner in a typical healthy person.

Relax, choose healthy foods, and cook them by whichever method you prefer (short of roasting over an open Tire...that would be bad).

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 10:45AM
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Phillycook, do you not have gas for heat, hot water or any other appliance? I know the majority of homes here have both regardless of what type of cooking they have. Many folks have gas dryers in their laundry rooms as well. I hear of more fires started by faulty wiring, lightening strikes or electrical appliances - even something as small and simple as a toaster. Not only that, but gas will generally give warnings -- you can buy detectors and the gas is odorized so you can smell a leak. Bad wiring or components may or may not give detectable signals. And hot coils can start a fire even after they've been turned off if something is set down on them or falls on them.

I'm sure you were firghtened, but you have to realize that there are risks either way. All you can do is chose something well made, have it properly installed and do your best to maintain it and notice any signs of potential trouble.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 12:50PM
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Well, Hoochie, I think you're completely right. The more you consider the side effects technological development has brought us, the more overwhelming it becomes (if "you" are "me"). Even in the old days before cell phone towers were blasting us with radiation 24/7 there was the ever present threat of disease, dying in childbirth, or getting eaten by a sabertoothed tiger. I guess we have to accept it.

Probably most people are willing to put up with it anyway, because of its relative benefits. (I'd rather not, but there's not much I can do about it.)

Coincidentally, today I had a physical therapy appt. The PT had a particular interest in "modalities" and was up on the latest treatments used here and in europe. He used an infrared light laser on my elbow to stimulate cell repair by shooting photons of energy into them. This apparently has been used in europe for a long time, with success. I knew here was someone who understood the power of electromagnetic radiation, and my rangetop angst!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 6:40PM
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MRIs have magnetic fields strong enough to rip the jewelry off your body. Induction cooktops do not. That, and while the cooktop is operating the magnetic field is confined to the pan. All the hobs I've seen shut off when the pan is removed.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 6:44PM
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lascatx - I'm not the one who has issues with gas appliances, it's Villandry who fears the gas appliances.

And Villandry - as I stated before - properly maintained stoves do not explode. That's why I've got an open top all gas range. And if the ignitors fail, I've got matches.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 10:25PM
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Induction doesn't make the kitchen hot, which is particularly important when cooking multiple items. The Culinary Institute of America has induction cooktops at all its locations. The former head of the CIA recognizes that it will be the cooktop of the future, the safest-no exsplosions or incomplete burning of Hydrocarbons--from LP's oil, natural gas, etc. that always produce some CO. Professional chefs love induction--it is superior in simmering for making the best sauces and also doesn't make the kitche3n area a sweat box. Studies have shown that chefs are more productive and comfortable using induction. Of course, most of them use more powerful induction units from Cooktek, Bonnet, and a couple of others. The grates on gas get very hot. The burner top on inductions never get anywhere near as hot. I used to be a production manager at a restaurant in my twenties and far more people get serious burns fromgasand steam jackets than anything else. Nothing toxic is emitted from induction.

Sure, restaurants use gas for grilling. Most homes don't as it makes a greasy and smokey mess that is a fire hazard. I use a gas or charcoal grill outside with an overhang that is far above it. Cleaning up an induction cooktop is fast and easy. Cleaning gas cooktops is a drag and very time consuming.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 10:13AM
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I have a scientific background and I agree with Hoochie. We do not have a gas line in our house, but I wish we did. The hot water heater and the furnace would run much more efficiently if they were run by gas. In NC we had a gas furnace and stove and I liked it. It did not explode and didn't poison us with CO or CO2. Actually, the furnace had us concerned once as it wasn't burning correctly, but that's where proper maintenance comes into play.
CO2 is released whenever something burns or breathes and it is not toxic. Buy a few extra plants and they'll take care of it (during the photosynthesis CO2 is used to produce starch and O2). Do you never burn a candle in your home? If you suffer from a respiratory disease you may want to avoid it, but for healthy people it is not a risk at all.
I am sure that induction cooking is just as safe as using microwaves, electric heat or gas. There have been legends about how dangerous "nuked" food was since microwaves could alter the DNA of foods. I guess some people believe those kind of "reports" and unnecessarily worry about it. If you don't have the scientific knowlege yourself, then have some faith in the people who approve these technologies for household use. Most echnologies have advantages AND disadvantages, pick the one that best suits YOUR needs!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 10:26AM
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I am referring to ovens, not cooktops. You will not be able to light your oven with a match.

I just think electricity is inherently safer than gas. There is no GFI or circuit breaker for gas. And induction is clearly safer than electric coil or gas cooktops. Not to mention more efficient and cleaner.

Gather around and let me tell you this story. I had a pot of rice cooking on the stove. I went outside and got distracted by my neighbor. The pot boiled over and killed the flame. The ignitor was trying to spark but the starch in the water blocked it. The gas just kept coming out. I walked back in and I could smell gas and hear the ignitor continue to click away. I am telling you I really thought this was the end. Obviously it wasn't. :) With induction that would have not been a problem. And I understand that the new ones will have boil over protection.

In the next installment we can discuss my oven explosion.

As I have said before I simply fail to see the benefits of a gas cook top over induction on any level. Any my opinion of gas vs. electric ovens is stated above.

Happy cooking.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 11:23AM
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I LOVE my De Dietrich induction cooktop. It's a godsend here in Arizona -- who needs more heat? As far as magnetic fields are concerned, they drop off very quickly as you get farther away from the source, I don't think it's much of an issue. My friend from San Francisco visited us over Thanksgiving and she just couldn't get the hang of how to use the induction cooktop, it was hilarious to watch. She consistently either burned or undercooked her food, and I will say that lack of analog feedback is the biggest downfall of current induction models. If there was a variable blue glowing light under the glass surface to give you a visual indication, similar to gas, of the power level you were using would go a long way to making induction more intuitive to those who have been long time CNG users.

Can you rent or (affordably) buy an EMF meter? If so, you can visit your local kitchen appliance store and get a reading to satisfy yourself.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 2:28PM
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(all of this stated while feeling the warm glow of the EMF radiated from my computer CRT...)

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 4:52PM
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I wonder if I can convert my LCD display into an induction burner...

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 6:47PM
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This thread has the best giggles!! Thank you Hoochie16, Sshrivastava, and Weedmeister.

I've only used induction a little so far, and on a portable, but with the same Le Cruset pots, and I check the temperature the same way as with gas: Hold my hand over it and see how hot the air is, then check sizzle. (Though I do feel for your guest, Sshrivastava!)

The difference is that with induction the pot heats up almost immediately. With the old gas cooktop it takes forever. With the gas (household style, not pro) I turn it to high until the pot is hot and then turn it down to the level I want. With induction I just start it on medium low for something delicate and adjust up or down a notch if necessary. It's so much nicer. Especially if one likes cooking in cast iron :)

One of the things that sent me toward induction was that I told my father how much better I liked cooking with gas, and how much I wanted a Wolf rangetop with the powerful dual burners with simmer. He looked at me like I was crazy and started talking about the byproducts of combustion, dirt etc. He's a builder and has a very practical way of looking at things. But I also like roasting an eggplant or pepper over the fire, and have one of those crockpots you can brown in, etc., so the current plan is to get 2 Wolf burners and 3 Diva induction, and not have to make an either or decision.

Back to Egganddart's question: I don't have any science to add, but I do have respiratory sensitivities and don't have a problem with gas, though I've never used a pro style. I'm usually the proverbial canary in the coal mine, and, for instance, start to wheeze if I'm in a room where people used to smoke, but don't now and have redecorated (i.e., it's in the walls under the paint). So I think that if you're not specifically allergic to gas or asthmatic, it's fine :)

    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 2:33AM
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villandry wrote, "I am referring to ovens, not cooktops. You will not be able to light your oven with a match."

The gas ovens of Lacanche ranges, at least the North American models, can be lighted with a match. We live in an area with frequent electrical outages and this was a significant factor in our choice.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 9:27AM
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It's nice that Lacanche maintained that ability. Very useful!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 11:53AM
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This is a quote from a previous garden web posting:

*******Safety of electric induction hobs questioned in Japan

'IH cookers generate electromagnetic fields [in the frequency range of 100Hz and 18-23kHz ] when an electric current flows through coils under the top plate. Heat is created when the electromagnetic field reacts with the metallic pan atop the plate. (For the young, whose more sensitive hearing will be able to detect this level, cooking using an induction hob could well be accompanied by a rather unpleasant whine).

Whilst there is not a unanimous agreement that EMFs are linked to health problems, neither the government nor industry seems willing to make attempts to limit electromagnetic field exposure from IH cookers, both sides boasting of the products' safety, while saying it is the responsibility of the other party to communicate possible risks.

Takenori Ueda, of the Japan Offspring Foundation which reported the finding earlier this year, added that IH devices emit the highest level of radiation among all household electric appliances.

Microwave ovens are more powerful, but their emissions are countered by stronger shielding. The Foundation tested the hobs
with a radiation measuring device placed right next to the cooker set on maximum heat with a 12-cm pan on it.

All products registered incredibly high radiation levels, some as high as 101 microtesla. The highest level was more than 16 times the limit [for 18-23 kHz frequency] set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection for short-term exposure to such fields.

The companies accepted the Foundation's findings but insisted that the ICNIRP guideline can be interpreted differently and that radiation levels do not exceed the limit when measuring devices are placed 30 cm away from the device.

The Japanese government says that the industry or individuals should do something about it. The Japan Electrical Manufacturers' Association say that if there is to be a framework for more stringent safety measures regarding exposure to electromagnetic fields, the government should take the lead in drawing it up. A spokesman agreed that manufacturers have failed to provide consumers with sufficient information on electromagnetic fields.

Koya Ogino, a Kyoto University lecturer who specializes in electromagnetic fields, and the potential adverse health effects from long-term exposure, criticized both the government and industry for not taking further precautions. 'If the companies are profiting by selling the products, they should first confirm their safety,' he said.

The Japanese Government's defence is that they are awaiting 'more proof' of possible harm -- which is expected to be the result of 'current research' between the WHO (World Health Association) and the ICNIRP......

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is shortly to take on the task of writing a new ELF exposure standard for Australia. If they just incorporate the ICNIRP limits, which is very likely, will this then make the sale of induction cookers in Australia illegal?'

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 3:39AM
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thanks, c


    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 12:34PM
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Just as an aside in discussing the relative value or merits of cooking 'fuels' I thought I would chime in with some additional thoughts!

It is worth remembering that fossil fuels (gas included) are the main fuel used in the production of electricity. (Yes, there are other energy sources used, but fossil fuels still produce the majority of the world's electricity) This production is inefficient in that a sizeable proportion of the available (potential) energy is lost in the form of waste heat.

Electricity is an extremely sophisticated form of energy and capable of producing temperatures in excess of 4000 degrees celsius. It can also operate extremely complex machinery without which our quality of life would be much reduced.

There are some who would question using this energy to produce temperatures in the hundreds, or even less (160 degree hot water for example) when the original fossil fuels are better suited and freely (more of less) available to do so. The net calorie usage is MUCH less and the human footprint is reduced.

Not intending to flame anyone for their views, just throwing in a few pennies, in what is, a very interesting discussion!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2008 at 5:59PM
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RE: The Culinary Institute of America has induction cooktops at all its locations.

Every kitchen I used at the CIA had Vulcan or Garland gas ranges. I did see induction cooktops in some kitchen, but 98% of the cooking there is with gas (as of 2002, the last time I attended class there).


The Foundation tested the hobs with a radiation measuring device placed right next to the cooker set on maximum heat with a 12-cm pan on it.

All products registered incredibly high radiation levels, some as high as 101 microtesla. The highest level was more than 16 times the limit [for 18-23 kHz frequency] set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection for short-term exposure to such fields.

The companies accepted the Foundation's findings but insisted that the ICNIRP guideline can be interpreted differently and that radiation levels do not exceed the limit when measuring devices are placed 30 cm away from the device.

OK. let's look at what this means, using science, not hype.

One number is given in the above quote provided by ccc123: 101 microtesla. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? But how much is a microtesla? Well, not much. According to one source (Wiipedia), "Earth's magnetic field at latitude of 50 is 58 µT (5.8Ã10â5 T)". So where is 50° North Longitude? Some cities that are at or near 50° North include London, England, and Brussels, Belgium. So, people in these cities are experiencing half the power of a unknown strength induction hob 24x7x365. People living North of London, like in Oslo, Moscow and Berlin experience higher fields.

Now, given that magnetic force drops with the square of the distance (meaning double the distance and you have 1/4 of the strength) 101 microteslas doesn't sound that dangerous.

Here are a couple of examples of strong magnetic fields:
A modern neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) rare earth magnet has a strength of about 1.25 T (Tesla), or 1,250,000 microtesla. A coin-sized neodymium magnet can lift more than 5 kg, and can pinch skin and erase credit cards. (these can be easily purchased for less than $5.00 US each ).

Medical magnetic resonance imaging systems utilize fields from 1.5 to 3 T in practice, experimentally up to 7 T,

Strongest continuous magnetic field yet produced in a laboratory (Florida State University's National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, USA), 45 T

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2008 at 8:36PM
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Although I'm in the camp that would suspect that these warnings have a grain of truth and a bushel of, er, fertilizer, with the usual result of an extravagant bloom of dire warnings like the microwave oven scares followed by a die off in interest, it is necessary to note that the earth's field and that of a magnet are continuous, whereas the induction process uses alternating fields. Without any medical data, it would be improper to assume that the two cases would have identical effects on the body.

On the other hand, the immensely stronger magnetic fields used for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) in performing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are not continuous, yet haven't been found to damage people. In any case, complaining about a field level right next to the cooker is comparable to attacking gas cooking by noting that one gets a significant burn if one's skin is right next to the burner.

What I expect to come out of this is another nanny warning in the user manuals. For example: Do not sleep on the cooktop while cooking.

I assume everyone here intends to put on all their cabinet drawers the standard OSHA warning about not entering small spaces without proper training.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 10:07AM
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I wonder what the field from a typical electric alarm clock on a nightstand is, as (unless one is a chef) the cumulative exposure is far longer than that from a cooktop.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 10:18AM
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...or sitting in front of the computer, patrolling Garden web all day...
(I'm in trouble)

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 12:42PM
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We have had a 36" Thermador induction cooktop for about 2 months and really like it. My wife recently bought some demeyere frying pans with solid metal handles. Right away she noticed an "electric charge" on the pans when they are on the cooktop and the cooktop is not turned on. Then we noticed it on some pots with hollow handles, just not as much. When I lightly rub the back of my hand on an appliance which is not properly grounded, I feel a funny sensation which tells me not to touch a ground or I'll get zapped. In this case, there is no source of electricity with the pan sitting on glass, so no danger. I connected a volt meter between the pot and a faucet and measure about 0.1 vac, so it is real. If I turn the burner on, the sensation and voltage goes away. I'm guessing that the circuitry that turns off the burners only turns off one side of the electrical connection or that there is leakage through the electronics. That doesn't explain why it goes away when the burner is on. So now along with the clicking and humming, we have a tingling sensation when we lightly touch a handle. Anyone else experience this? The voltage is at such a low level, I don't think it is a hazard, but my wife is starting to get concerned.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 6:45PM
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zfatherhen - I would call Thermador - it sounds like there's something wrong with your cooktop.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 7:32PM
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