New research by Stanford University has found that the level of benzene emitted from gas stoves may be higher than that created by secondhand tobacco smoke. These indoor concentrations could be greater than levels of the carcinogen found inside of homes next to oil and gas refineries, according to the study. 

About 47 million homes across the U.S. use natural gas. The study measured levels of benzene from gas stoves in 87 homes in California and Colorado. It found the stoves “emitted detectable and repeatable levels of benzene that in some homes raised indoor benzene concentrations above well-established health benchmarks.” 

Researchers noted that leaving a single gas hob on for 45 minutes raised benzene emissions in the home 10 to 25 times higher compared to electric coil stoves. The study found that elevated levels of benzene can linger for at least six hours in a home or apartment after a gas stove is turned off. 

A 2022 study by Consumer Reports found that more than 12% of all childhood asthma cases across the country are linked to gas stoves. Previous research from the past several decades has shown that gas stoves can also emit carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde. 

Even low doses of benzene can raise the risk of a number of cancers, including leukemia and lymphomas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The chemical has been found in everyday household products such as sunscreen and other personal care products, leading to several lawsuits

Gas Stove Regulation

The subject of gas stove safety has been at the center of some political tension since the study was published in June. The Biden administration is working to create efficiency standards for new stoves, but some legislators are pushing back. Earlier this year, House Republicans passed a bill to stop federal funding from being used to regulate gas stoves as a harmful product

New York is the first state to ban all gas stoves and other fossil fuels in most new buildings. Lawmakers approved the move this year. It requires all heating and cooking products in new buildings shorter than seven stories to be electric across the state by 2026. Taller buildings would have to comply by 2029. 

Regulators in California are considering a full ban of gas stoves statewide. Several California cities have already banned the installation of gas appliances in new homes. Incentives are also being offered for those who choose electric appliances instead. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’s working to ensure there isn’t a gas stove ban in the state.

The idea of banning all natural gas appliances to improve indoor air quality is considered progress by climate advocates but is coming under fire from fossil fuel interests. The natural gas industry is pushing back, claiming lawmakers are taking away options from consumers. Some believe eliminating gas stoves could lead to higher costs and may deny affordable energy to underserved areas.

Reducing Benzene Exposure

There are ways to avoid benzene emissions from gas stoves. The most obvious is to switch to an electric induction stove or portable induction cooktop. Research has shown that induction cooktops emit no benzene. Government subsidies and incentives are also available through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act for replacement appliances.

Experts say range hoods can help, but still do not provide sufficient ventilation for gas stoves. Rob Jackson, a scientist at Stanford who helped lead the study, told reporters that gas stoves “are the only common fossil fuel appliance to vent pollution indoors.” 

“We would never willingly stand over the tailpipe of a car, breathing in its pollution, but we do willingly stand over our stoves, breathing in the pollution they emit,” Jackson said.