Science and Tech


Another study claims gas stoves bad for human health

The new research indicates gas stoves emit as much benzene as secondhand smoke. Meanwhile, Capitol Hill debates new regulations.
Gas stove turned on.
Posted at 2:15 PM, Jun 23, 2023

As a political debate is waged on whether gas stoves should face stronger regulations, a new study found the chemicals released from such appliances are as bad as secondhand smoke. 

The study released last week by Stanford University scientists and published in Environmental Science & Technology said that a single gas burner on high, or an oven set to 350 degrees raised benzene concentrations above the upper range of indoor benzene concentrations attributable to secondhand tobacco smoke. 

The American Cancer Society says that high doses of benzene "can affect the nervous system, which can lead to drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, tremors, confusion, and/or unconsciousness." It says that cigarette smoking is a major source of benzene. 

"Benzene forms in flames and other high-temperature environments, such as the flares found in oil fields and refineries. We now know that benzene also forms in the flames of gas stoves in our homes," said study senior author Rob Jackson, professor of Earth system science at Stanford. "Good ventilation helps reduce pollutant concentrations, but we found that exhaust fans were often ineffective at eliminating benzene exposure."

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The study follows previous Stanford research highlighting how methane can be emitted from gas appliances. The research indicated that gas stoves are attributable to 12.7% of all childhood asthma cases.

Proposed standards for gas stovetops have cooked up a storm on Capitol Hill after the Department of Energy released new regulations earlier this year.

The new regulations would place more stringent conservation standards for consumer-grade stoves. But watchdog groups say that nearly half of gas stove models on the market today would be taken off the market under the regulations. The regulations would begin in 2027 for new sales. 

Andrew deLaski, executive director at Appliance Standards Awareness Project told Congress last month that modest improvements to gas stoves that don't meet the new standards would result in a 30% decrease in energy use to do the same amount of cooking. 

"Energy efficiency standards for household appliances and commercial equipment have been a cost-saving feature of American energy policy for decades," deLaski said. "The DOE should expeditiously finalize strong energy efficiency standards to secure real cost and energy savings — and long-term energy security — for the American people."

Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas, chair of the House Oversight Committee, claimed the new rules are an "assault" on Americans' gas stoves, calling the standards a "de facto ban."

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"What is more American than gas stoves?" Fallon said. 

Earlier this year, a commissioner for the Consumer Product Safety Commission said the federal agency should consider banning gas stovetops in homes. He later walked back those comments, however.

Eric Lebel, a senior scientist for PSE Health Energy, previously told Scripps News there are two main concerns that gas stoves pose. One is that stoves can emit methane gas, which is a potent greenhouse gas.He said the other concern is that stoves can release harmful gases such as nitrogen oxides. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, large doses of nitrogen oxides can cause dizziness. Long-term exposure can lead to infertility, the CDC said.