Hazardous levels of benzene, a gas known to cause leukemia and other blood cancers, are leaking from gas stoves in California, a new study finds.
Scientists at the nonprofit research firm PSE Healthy Energy gathered samples of unburned gas from 159 stoves in homes across the state of California and found benzene in 99 percent of samples.
“What we saw is that in certain cases, just having a gas stove in your kitchen could create benzene concentrations comparable to secondhand smoke,” PSE Healthy Energy said in a related blog post. As even low concentrations of benzene can raise the risk of cancer, there is no safe level of exposure, according to the World Health Organization.
“This study adds to a growing body of research that suggests gas leaks can contribute to harmful air pollution as well as climate change,” PSE Healthy Energy said of the findings, which were published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Research published earlier this year found that gas stoves are also prone to leaking nitrogen oxides, which can trigger respiratory illness, and a significant amount of heat-trapping methane. The total volume of methane seeping from U.S. gas stoves yearly has the climate impact of roughly half a million cars, the study estimated.
In 2019, Berkeley became the first U.S. city to prohibit gas infrastructure in new buildings. It was followed by San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Monica, and dozens of other California cities. More than 60 cities and counties in the state have adopted policies to curb the use of natural gas in buildings.