The findings were published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal on Thursday, and the study included 185 unburned natural gas collections from 159 residential stoves in seven areas of California. Throughout the research, 12 hazardous air pollutants were frequently found.
The study estimated that benzene emissions, which are not currently counted by the state, are the same as the yearly benzene emissions that come from almost 60,000 gas vehicles. It also pointed out that natural gas can leak from ovens and stoves even when they aren’t running and result in benzene exposure.
The report could have an impact on policies regarding the construction of new homes in California, especially since the state has attempted to quickly shift to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels.
“What our science shows is that people in California are exposed to potentially hazardous levels of benzene from the gas that is piped into their homes,” Drew Michanowicz, a co-author of the study and senior scientist at PSE Healthy Energy, said. “We hope that policymakers will consider this data when they are making policy to ensure current and future policies are health-protective in light of this new research.”
Environmentalists and local authorities in California and Massachusetts have tried to get rid of gas appliances and replace them with electric equipment, but with California’s electric grid becoming more and more of a concern, the shift might not be favorable to residents who have already experienced rolling blackouts and requests to cut back on energy.
In August, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed clean energy legislation that permits some local areas to prohibit new natural gas hookups.
Benzene exposure is known to increase the risk of someone getting leukemia, as well as other blood disorders, according to the National Cancer Institute. It is a “colorless or light-yellow liquid chemical at room temperature.” The chemical can also be in adhesives, glues, and cleaning supplies.
“Anywhere natural gas is leaked, hazardous air pollutants are likely being released, as well,” Kelsey Bilsback, another co-author said.
“Benzene emissions from a gas stove, even while it’s off, can produce in some cases concentrations of benzene in your house that are equivalent to living with a smoker,” co-author Eric Lebel said. “Just having a gas appliance in your house can be a potential health risk. Eliminating gas altogether is the only sure way to completely eliminate that risk.”