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Even when they’re not turned on, natural gas stoves and ovens can leak harmful chemicals inside homes.

A study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found at least 12 hazardous air pollutants emitted from gas stoves in California, including benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer after long-term exposure.

After analyzing 159 gas samples from California homes, researchers found benzene in 99% of the samples. They then calculated a home’s exposure level based on kitchen size, ventilation and whether the stoves were leaking when turned off. Results showed the leakiest stoves exposed people to indoor levels of benzene up to seven times the safe exposure level set by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, benzene is a colorless or light-yellow liquid chemical that is part of crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke. It is widely used in the U.S. to make plastics, dyes, detergents and pesticides. Outdoor air contains low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, gas stations and motor vehicle exhaust, while indoor air contains higher levels of benzene from products like glues, paints and waxes. Exposure to benzene increases the risk for developing leukemia and other blood disorders.

Another study conducted in Boston also found high levels of benzene and other carcinogens and toxicants inside homes with gas stoves.

Dr. Matthew Schabath, epidemiologist

Dr. Matthew Schabath, epidemiologist

“This is an understudied area and warrants population studies to determine if natural gas is associated with cancer risk in people, and if so, how high of a risk,” said Dr. Matthew Schabath, an epidemiologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. “Given these two studies, mitigation and primary prevention efforts should be considered for people who use indoor natural gas or work around natural gas.”

Signs of exposure to benzene include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, tremors and unconsciousness. If you think you have been exposed to benzene, the CDC has information on how to protect yourself and avoid further exposure.