Gas Stoves Emit Cancer-Linked Pollutant, Benzene, at Higher Levels Than Previously Thought, Stanford Study Finds
Stanford University researchers have discovered that gas stoves emit benzene, a cancer-linked pollutant, at levels higher than those found in secondhand tobacco smoke. The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, reveals that benzene pollution can spread throughout a home, raising concerns about the health risks associated with gas stove emissions.
The research team measured benzene levels from gas stoves in 87 homes across California and Colorado in 2022. They found detectable and repeatable levels of benzene emitted by both natural gas and propane stoves, with some homes experiencing indoor benzene concentrations exceeding established health benchmarks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long linked benzene exposure to leukemia and other blood cell cancers.
Lead author Rob Jackson, a Stanford professor of earth sciences, highlighted that benzene forms not only in high-temperature environments like oil fields and refineries but also in the flames of gas stoves. The study further revealed that even with proper ventilation, exhaust fans were often ineffective at eliminating benzene exposure. This groundbreaking research is the first to analyze benzene emissions while a stove or oven is in use.
The findings challenge the conventional belief that gas stoves pose minimal health risks. The American Gas Association (AGA), representing natural gas utilities, has routinely questioned research suggesting health hazards associated with burning natural gas in homes. Last year, the AGA criticized a peer-reviewed study demonstrating benzene leakage from gas stoves, and it responded similarly to a 2022 analysis linking gas stove use to childhood asthma cases.
Medical experts are increasingly joining the conversation, advocating against cooking with gas due to concerns about nitrogen dioxide emissions, which can trigger respiratory diseases. The American Public Health Association has labeled gas cooking stoves a public health concern, and the American Medical Association warns of an increased risk of childhood asthma when using gas stoves.
Gas stoves have also become a contentious issue in the country’s culture wars. The suggestion by Consumer Product Safety Commission Commissioner Richard Trumka, Jr. to consider stricter regulation of new gas stoves stirred debate. In response, Republican lawmakers introduced and passed two bills aimed at limiting new regulations on gas stoves, but their chances of becoming law are slim with Democrats controlling the U.S. Senate and White House.
Concerned individuals have options to mitigate gas stove pollution. Switching to electric stoves is a straightforward solution, supported by campaigns advocating for both health and climate reasons. Portable induction cooktops and other plug-in appliances like toaster ovens offer cheaper interim alternatives to reduce these stove usage. Additionally, government subsidies available through the Inflation Reduction Act can help homeowners replace their gas stoves with more environmentally friendly options.
As awareness grows regarding the potential health risks associated with these stove emissions, individuals are encouraged to consider alternative cooking methods that prioritize both personal well-being and environmental sustainability.
The issue of gas stove pollution extends beyond individual households to encompass larger environmental concerns. The main component of natural gas, methane, is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. As methane leaks into the atmosphere throughout the gas supply chain, the environmental impact becomes evident.
Encouraging a shift away from these stoves not only benefits indoor air quality and human health but also aligns with broader efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. By adopting alternative cooking methods, such as electric stoves or induction cooktops, individuals can contribute to a healthier environment while safeguarding their own well-being. The availability of government subsidies further supports the transition to more sustainable cooking practices.