A new study has found that the natural gas used in homes to power stoves and ovens may contain dangerous air pollutants, compounds that have been linked to cancer.
Research published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology looked for “unburned” household gas in Boston, or the gas that comes out of stoves when the appliance is turned on, they examined more than 200 homes and found varying concentrations of volatile organic compounds. and according to scientists, these volatile organic compounds cause cancer, as well as create particulate matter and other secondary air pollutants.
Much research has been done on methane, which is the basis of natural gas, but its impact on climate change has been little studied. “When we talk about natural gas, we only mean methane,” lead researcher Drew Mihanovich of the NatureNet Science Fellows Program told reporters.
Over more than a year and a half, Mikhanovich and his colleagues collected 234 samples of unburned natural gas from 69 stoves and pipelines in the Boston area.
They found 296 unique chemical compounds, 21 of which are considered hazardous air pollutants by the federal government. While natural gas is often viewed as a cleaner fossil fuel, this couldn’t be further from the truth, experts say.
The most common VOC found by the researchers was benzene, a known carcinogen that was found in 95 percent of the samples, and benzene concentrations were about eight times higher in winter than in summer.
“Benzene is a concern because it is a known human carcinogen that affects white and red blood cells, leads to anemia and reduces immune function,” Mihanovich said.
Experts have identified several other volatile organic compounds that are considered hazardous, including hexane, toluene, heptane and cyclohexane.
While the study focused mainly on identifying risks, the next steps will be to assess human exposure and health risks, as it is important to understand the health effects of exposure to these gases, experts say.