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New study uncovers updated health risks of benzene in natural gas — and its lead author says one factor is 'especially concerning'

Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself before then if you have a gas stove in the home.

Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself before then if you have a gas stove in the home.

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Seemingly every week, scientists uncover more information about the health dangers of gas stoves. Burning gas inside kitchens has been linked to over one in eight cases of childhood asthma, an elevated risk of pneumonia and bronchitis, and the pollution of our air and environment.

Now, one new study, published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters, is revealing even more frightening findings about gas and gas stoves.

What did the study find?

When researchers collected hundreds of gas samples from stoves across North America, they found something disturbing: nearly all of them (97%) contained the carcinogen benzene. On top of the benzene, other hazardous air pollutants were present in over 99% of the samples.

And when gas appliances, like stoves, leak, there can be health consequences, too. Even though odorants are added to gas so that people can smell when there's a leak, the study found that they might not be enough.

Dr. Sebastian T. Rowland, the study's lead author, explained to The Cool Down how relying on odorants might be insufficient to protect people from leaks: "Anyone with a weaker smelling ability, including many older adults, could be living with an even larger gas leak and not even know it."

Considering that about 3% of Americans have close to no sense of smell, using an "average sense of smell" as a standard to protect consumers from gas leaks is problematic. 

"Folks could be living with these low-level leaks and not even be able to smell it," Dr. Rowland told The Cool Down. "… And when it comes to a hazard in the home, that feels especially concerning — because if you're not aware of an issue, it's pretty hard to solve it."

Given all of the new research underscoring the health impacts of gas stoves, it shouldn't come as a surprise that lawsuits are underway to protect consumers from the dangers of gas.

One recent class action lawsuit filed in Massachusetts is trying to hold the gas utility Eversource Energy accountable for allegedly misleading the public about the health dangers of gas stoves.

The plaintiffs allege that Eversource Energy used "unfair and false, deceptive and misleading business practices in marketing, promoting, and selling natural gas," by telling consumers that it was both "clean" and "safe."

The class action complaint cites a video on Eversource's website as evidence of deception. In it, the utility claims, "Natural gas is clean, safe, and good for the environment and your family." 

Jason Adkins, one attorney representing the plaintiffs, told The Cool Down that Eversource has continuously "been engaged in systemic and persistent deception … and using depictions of women and children to show that it's safe."

Making matters worse, on its website, as recently as September 2022, Eversource allegedly downplayed the importance of using ventilation when cooking with gas stoves. The utility company has responded to the lawsuit's allegations, with spokesperson Tricia Modifica stating that its claims "lack legal or factual merit," according to E&E News.

Yet Adkins doesn't buy the utility's show of confidence, telling The Cool Down, "We're going to win. … If they can't support their bold statements on how good natural gas is for everybody, they're going to lose … and methane is harmful."

The Massachusetts class action follows another gas-stove-related lawsuit filed just days prior in the DC Superior Court by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. The suit accuses Haier U.S. Appliance Solutions, which sells GE appliances, of deceiving the public about the health dangers of gas stoves.

The plaintiffs are asking the judge to require that gas stoves include warning labels so consumers can make more informed decisions when installing appliances in their homes.

In addition to Haier, other gas stove manufacturers — including LG, Samsung, Whirlpool, and Wolf — are now facing class action lawsuits.

How you can protect yourself

Legal action may lead to better consumer protections when it comes to gas stoves. But it's likely that many of these lawsuits will take years to unfold fully and even longer for the full health impacts of gas stoves to be understood.

Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself before then if you have a gas stove in the home.

First and foremost, swapping out your gas stove for an electric or high-tech induction stove can remove the dangers of cooking with gas. Besides being better for your health and the planet, induction stoves cook more quickly and evenly while providing better temperature control.

Plus, the federal government, through the Inflation Reduction Act, will soon be offering up to $840 back for people who make the switch to induction. Renters can also benefit by buying plug-in induction cooktops that can sit on a counter for around $82.

But if you can't afford to make the switch, don't worry; you can still act to protect your family's health. If there's a window near your kitchen, opening it can help with the air quality. And an overhead vent may also seriously reduce the air pollutants in your home.

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