Natural Gas in the Home Contains Carcinogens like Benzene

Natural Gas in the Home Contains Carcinogens like Benzene

When people use natural gas in their homes, they are exposing themselves to harmful carcinogens. It was also found that there are inconsistent levels of odorants in natural gas, making it harder to tell if there is a leak in the home. The study was published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal. This is just one part of growing research that shows that natural gas in the home is detrimental to health and the climate. Most of the research looks at pollutants found near sites of oil and gas extraction, but there is much less that looks at the end use of the gas industry.

Research took place over 16 months at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. There were 234 samples taken of unburned natural gas from 69 homes in the Boston area. All samples came from one of three different suppliers. There were 21 air toxics (classification from Environmental protection Agency) found, which are hazardous pollutants that are known or at least suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, or adverse environmental effects. One such chemical found was benzene, a carcinogen known to cause Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Short term exposure of benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, and skin and eye irritation. It can also cause other blood disorders and cancers.

Benzene is a highly flammable chemical that is either colorless or a light-yellow color that can be found in coal, oil containing plastics, resins, nylon fibers, as well as rubbers, dyes, pesticides, vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, and gasoline. The concentration of benzene found in the natural gas samples was lower than gasoline, but this is still problematic because natural gas is used indoors and is widely used in society. The majority of time (around 90 percent) is spent indoors. Pollutant concentrations indoors can range from two to five times more compared to outdoor spaces.

Benzene is a carcinogen, so over time more exposure can lead to cancer. The main purpose of the research was to see if there were concentrations of hazardous materials in natural gas pumped to people’s homes. More research is now needed to understand the exact health risks of the chemicals people are being exposed to. The main cause of benzene exposure is gasoline and smoking, but any unnecessary benzene exposure is still problematic. Odorant inconsistencies were also problematic because this prevents people from detecting leaks in the home. The main part of natural gas is methane. When it is released into the atmosphere unburned it is very problematic because methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. It warms the planet 80 times more than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide in a 20-year period. Oil and gas companies have been criticized in the past because of large amounts of invisible methane releases.

Many parts of the country are trying to dissuade people from natural gas hookups and instead utilize electric alternatives to prevent the impact of burning emissions and fossil fuels. When natural gas leaks, the research points to toxic chemicals being released in addition to methane. This makes gas leaks a health and environmental problem. The researchers hope to improve the transparency of gas composition data. Pipeline operators and gas companies test and release the composition of gas, but only test for the 16 most common materials. They do not test for products like benzene and other chemicals that the researchers found during their research.

Were you exposed to benzene or another toxic substance? Contact us today to see if you could be entitled to compensation. Call 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form to speak to a member of our team.

Elana Shao, “Gas Piped Into Homes Contains Benzene and Other Risky Chemicals, Study Finds” New York Times (June 28, 2022). [Link]

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