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Your Gas Stove Is Likely Leaking Cancer-Causing Benzene Into Your Home

Researchers found benzene levels comparable to those in secondhand smoke leaking from stoves in California.

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Blue flames rise from the burner of a natural gas stove June 11, 2003 in Orange, California.
Blue flames rise from the burner of a natural gas stove June 11, 2003 in Orange, California.
Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)

Natural gas stoves commonly emit toxic chemicals into homes, even when the appliances are not in use. A study published today in Environmental Science & Technology found that, when researchers took samples from gas stoves in California, nearly all of them were leaking harmful levels of benzene, which is known to cause cancer in humans. The amount emitted from some stoves was up to seven times California’s recommended safe exposure limit.

Researchers with nonprofit policy research institute PSE Healthy Energy took samples from 159 residential gas stoves in 16 counties throughout California. They took samples from stoves fed by three major gas utilities in the state: San Diego Gas and Electric, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Southern California Gas Company. They found benzene in 99% of the samples.


The level of pollution from the stoves varied from sample to sample and from county to county, but Los Angeles had the highest level of indoor pollutants. North San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valley homes had benzene levels 30 times higher than the California average.

“While these leaks are often too small to smell, they can still impact air quality and increase human health risks in our homes,” said lead author Eric Lebel, senior scientist at PSE Healthy Energy, in a press release. “We found that just having a gas stove can create benzene concentrations in the kitchen comparable to secondhand smoke.”


The researchers estimated that California stoves are leaking the same amount of benzene annually as 60,000 light-duty gas-powered cars, according to the study. But these emissions “are currently not included in any statewide inventories,” the abstract notes.

“Natural gas leaks are a source of hazardous air pollutants that have largely been overlooked,” Drew Michanowicz, PSE Healthy Energy senior scientist, said in a press release. “Policies that phase out gas appliances are not only good for our climate, our study shows that these policies also provide important public health benefits by improving indoor and outdoor air quality.”

This study comes a month after California’s Air Resources Board voted to phase out the sale of natural gas space and water heaters by 2030. The state has also voted to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035 to lower emissions. Various cities across the U.S. are also moving to ban gas hookups as part of a larger strategy to address climate change and lower air pollution.

Other research has found similar issues with gas stoves. As one writer put it in 2020, “Gas Stoves Are the Scariest Thing in the Kitchen.” A study earlier this year found that gas stoves, even when off, leak the greenhouse gas methane into homes.