Researchers have found in a new study that gas cookers in Californian homes lose carcinogenic benzene. Their findings add to a growing number of research that shows that gas furnaces can be dangerous to human health and the environment, and not only affect California residents.
In a study published on Thursday in Environmental Science and Technology, researchers collected gas samples from 159 homes in different parts of California and measured what types of gases were released into homes when the ovens were turned off. They found that all samples examined contained dangerous air pollutants such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, which may have harmful effects on human health.
Researchers were especially concerned about benzene, a known carcinogen that can lead to leukemia and other cancers and blood diseases, according to the National Cancer Institute. Benzene was also responsible for a massive recall of dry shampoos after Health Canada found “potentially high levels” of this substance in some products.
There is no safe level of exposure to benzene, according to the World Health Organization, and Health Canada advises Canadians to minimize their exposure.
“Just having a gas stove in the kitchen can create concentrations of benzene comparable to those found in secondary smoke,” said Eric Lebel, principal author of the study, during a press conference. Lebel noted that benzene is detected in households regardless of the gas supplier or brand of equipment used.
The gas that is piped into people’s homes in California exposes them to benzene at amounts that could be deadly, according to paper co-author and senior scientist Drew Michanowicz of PSE Healthy Energy, a center for energy research and policy. To guarantee that present and future policies are health-protective in light of this new research, we hope that policymakers would take this data into account when they are making decisions.
While Michanowicz also participated in a study examining air pollutants from gas stoves in Boston households, he discovered that California had significantly greater quantities of contaminants.
Lebel added, “We suspect it has something to do with where the gas is being sourced from,” but it’s unclear why the concentrations vary so much from place to place. “California imports gas through two significant pipelines, one from the Rockies and the other from Canada’s north.”
The average amount of benzoene found in homes was between 0.7 and 12 parts per million (ppm), with 66 ppm being the highest amount ever measured.
The reference exposure threshold for benzene determined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is just 0.94 ppm, below which significant health effects are not anticipated.