Study links gas stoves with leukaemia carcinogen

Matt Woodley

22/06/2023 4:43:48 PM

A single cooktop burner on high can raise indoor levels of benzene above those found in second-hand tobacco smoke, research suggests.

Gas stovetop
Benzene released by gas-power stoves and ovens can drift throughout a home and linger in the air for hours.

New Stanford University-led research has raised the temperature on the use of gas-powered stoves and ovens, after it found they produce unsafe levels of benzene, which has been linked with a higher risk of developing blood cell cancers.
According to the study, a single gas cooktop burner on high or a gas oven set to 180° C can raise indoor levels of the carcinogen to average concentrations 10–50 times higher than electric alternatives, and also above those in second-hand tobacco smoke.
It can also drift throughout a home and linger in the air for hours, the authors, led by Professor Rob Jackson, found.
‘Benzene forms in flames and other high-temperature environments, such as the flares found in oil fields and refineries,’ he said. ‘We now know that benzene also forms in the flames of gas stoves in our homes.
‘Good ventilation helps reduce pollutant concentrations, but we found that exhaust fans were often ineffective at eliminating benzene exposure.’
The new paper is the first to analyse benzene emissions when a stove or oven is in use. Previous studies focused on leaks from stoves when they were turned off and did not directly measure resulting benzene concentrations.
However, the rates of benzene emitted during combustion were hundreds of times higher than those identified in the studies investigating unburned gas leaking into homes.
GP Dr Ben Ewald, who has written previously about the impact indoor gas use can have on asthma, told newsGP the findings should be concerning for ‘anyone with bone marrow’.
‘Benzene, a six-carbon ring molecule, has acute effects of bone marrow suppression, and chronic effects causing leukaemia,’ he said.
‘The reference level that probably protects health from the acute effects is set at one part per billion [PPB] in California, or 1.6 PPB in the European Union.
‘The World Health Organization recommends exposures be as low as possible, as there is no lower threshold that can be considered safe exposure.’
Dr Ewald pointed out that four of the 14 kitchens with gas stoves included in the study generated benzene levels above one PPB after running the oven or a single gas burner for 45 minutes, whereas induction cooktops emitted no detectable benzene whatsoever.
‘The highest observed level was from a stove burning propane, which in Australia is a component of LPG bottled gas,’ he said.
‘Since induction stoves are so good, and now hardly more expensive than a gas stove, there is no longer any excuse for installing them. The Grattan Institute put out a report this week proposing there should be a phase-out date set for the sale of new indoor gas appliances.
‘In the meantime, for people who have to use them it’s good advice to open a window or door, and use an extraction fan every time a gas stove is lit.’
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