Science and Tech


This home appliance can put out more benzene than secondhand smoke

​Benzene is a known cancer-causing chemical that is widely used across the U.S. to make plastic and synthetic fibers, according to the CDC.
Posted at 8:57 AM, Nov 05, 2023

Gas stoves can put out more benzene into your home than secondhand smoke from cigarettes, according to a study. 

Benzene is a known cancer-causing chemical that is widely used across the U.S. to make things like plastic, resin and synthetic fibers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Stanford-led study published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science & Technology journal earlier this year looked at how much benzene is emitted indoors from gas combustion by stoves – something they believe was not studied prior. 

A single gas or propane burner used on high or an oven set to 350 °F for 45 minutes raised benzene concentrations in the air above the baseline in every kitchen that was tested and, in some cases, it raised the level higher than the level that would be attributed to something like secondhand tobacco smoke, the study said. 

The high levels of benzene also migrated through the air to other rooms, with some of the bedrooms in the homes tested having between five and 70 times the baseline level when a burner or oven was being used. 

"By measuring benzene concentrations in bedrooms during and after gas burner and oven use, we also showed that benzene produced from gas stoves migrates well beyond the kitchen," the researchers stated. "People outside the kitchen can be exposed to elevated levels of benzene for hours after the stove is turned off."

Large new study links air pollution levels to breast cancer risk
Emissions from an oil refinery in Utah

Large new study links air pollution levels to breast cancer risk

The study was one of the largest to ever investigate the effects of tiny particles of air pollution from industrial emissions and car exhaust.


The researchers looked at 87 houses across California and Colorado as part of the study. They took air samples to measure the emission levels by using the same pot to boil water on all of the tested cooktop elements, in addition to measuring the levels in empty ovens. 

"Our findings suggest that the concentrations of benzene produced by combustion from gas stoves and ovens indoors may increase health risks under some conditions," the study said. The researchers acknowledged further investigation is needed to assess the full health impacts. 

Benzene can be found in the air all around us from things like wildfires, gas stations, vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions, the CDCsaid. 

The major effect of long-term exposure to the chemical is on the blood, which can eventually lead to cancer, according to the CDC. In some studies of the effects on humans, it was discovered that women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries.