A new study suggests that gas stoves can leak dangerous pollutants even when they are off.
Researchers at the PSE Healthy Energy, a research institute, took 185 natural gas (NG) samples from 159 unique residential stoves in California. Samples were then analyzed in two certified labs.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on Thursday, found that six of the ten most commonly detected pollutants were federally-designated hazardous air pollutants (HAP), known for causing adverse health effects. Four of these HAPs — benzene, toluene, m,p-xylene, and hexane — were found in more than 98% of the samples.
Benzene is carcinogenic to humans, and no safe level of exposure can be recommended, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The pollutant is associated with several types of leukemia and lung cancer. Chronic exposure to benzene can also cause reduced production of red and white blood cells from bone marrow.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that women who had a high-level exposure to benzene for an extended period of time had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries.
“What we saw is that in certain cases, just having a gas stove in your kitchen could create benzene concentrations comparable to secondhand smoke,“ researchers say in the PSE Healthy Energy blog.
Nearly 9 out of 10 (88%) households in California had natural gas service in 2020. Of those, 70% of homes cook with an NG-powered stove or oven.