New Gas Stove Study Finds Low VOC Levels, Doesn’t Assess Health Risks
A new study from an anti-natural gas activist group is high on scare tactics around gas stoves but acknowledges it found low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and never assessed the actual risks, if any, to residents.
The study, yet another published by authors from Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSEHE), a group known for sensational claims, seeks to PSEHE released their study intended to “identify the presence and concentration of certain hazards” in the natural gas distribution system, yet only succeed in unnecessarily distressing residents to convince them their gas stove is are harming them.
Researchers Acknowledge Low Levels of VOCs
In the study, the authors admit that the VOCs in natural gas “are likely lower compared to other source types” and in the webinar discussing the study, they are conscious to clarify that the presence of VOCs is in such small concentrations that there is no cause for immediate concern.
One of the toxics, the authors studied was benzene, which they said was lower in the natural gas fueling gas stoves than found in gasoline is prevalent in all aspects of modern society. The New York Times reported while covering the story:
“The highly flammable chemical is colorless or light yellow and is found in products made from coal and oil including plastics, resins and nylon fibers, and also some types of rubbers, dyes and pesticides. It is also regularly found in vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke and gasoline.
“‘The concentrations of benzene that the researchers found in the natural gas samples were ‘much lower compared to the amount in gasoline,’ Dr. Michanowicz said on Friday during a conference call with reporters.” (emphasis added)
The American Gas Association also confirmed there are only low levels of VOCs, as reported by Inside Climate News:
A more extensive statement from [the American Gas Association] on Tuesday said any trace of benzene that might leak into a room would be ‘below conservative health-based screening levels’ and would be ‘only a tiny fraction of the typical background levels of benzene in outdoor and indoor air.’ The statement said that natural gas industry performs ‘standard testing’ of natural gas which has ‘always shown that natural gas also contains trace amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).’
“‘Given the very low levels of VOCs found in natural gas,’ the statement said, ‘the temporal and spatial variabilities reported by the authors are primarily of academic interest.’”
Study is Not a Health Risk Assessment
After acknowledging they only found low levels of VOCs, the authors then are unable to even state whether there is even a health risk it all.
Instead, all the authors can manage to call their work is “hazard identification study” with indications of what the consequences of those hazards might be:
“Ultimately, we categorize this study as a hazard identification study within the larger health risk assessment context.”
Simply translated: The researchers found low levels of VOCs (hazard identification) among the unburned natural gas in gas stoves couldn’t find any link to those VOC and health risks.
This undermines all the scare tactics around the study. There are plenty of hazards in the world – VOCs, bear attacks, lightning strikes – but unless someone is actually exposed to the hazard in a major way, there is no risk to their health.
Additionally, findings in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology discovered that as more people stayed in their homes during the pandemic, asthma and respiratory symptoms and their severity decreased.
Long Record of Dubious Studies and Activist Funding
This isn’t the first study conducted by PSEHE that is intended to undercut confidence in America’s natural gas distribution system.
In January, PSEHE teamed up with Stanford University to peddle a study with flawed methodology to proclaim that gas stoves are harmful to health based on their measured NO2 emissions over the course of a few minutes without any ventilation. In that study, PSEHE used a completely unrealistic testing environment by sealing kitchens in plastic wrap and painters tape and employed flawed measurements.
It’s becoming clear that PSEHE wants residents and policymakers to see the findings and question the use of natural gas stoves regardless of what their studies actually show.
It’s no surprise coming from an organization that’s pushing against natural gas extraction and consumption. PSEHE was founded by self-proclaimed anti-fracking activist Tony Ingraffea, who has bragged his research is “a form of advocacy” that has “advocacy-laced words and phrases in our papers,” and still receives funding from the anti-fracking Park Foundation — an organization that funds anti-fracking activities across the country.