Benzene is a dangerous environmental toxin used in the manufacture of plastics, detergents, pesticides, and other chemicals. The Department of Health & Human Services has determined that it is a known human carcinogen – a chemical or physical agent that causes cancer.
The predominant disease and cancer caused by benzene exposure is acute myelogenous leukemia AML. Benzene is also reported to cause Hodgkin’s Disease and lymphoma.
The following diseases are associated with benzene exposure: Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, Acute Lymphatic Leukemia, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia, and Hodgkin’s Disease.
People exposed to for less than 5 years have developed, and died from, leukemia. Even short-term exposure to high levels can cause drowsiness, dizziness, unconsciousness, and death.
How might you be exposed? Benzene ranks in the top 20 chemicals for production volume in the United States.
Benzene is one of the top 20 most-produced chemicals in the United States, used primarily in the production of plastics and chemical products. Significant quantities of benzene are found or used in oil refineries and some types of chemical plants. It is also used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, detergents, and explosives. As an industrial chemical, it is used frequently as a solvent in the chemical and drug industries.
However, it has also been used in more common commercial and even household products such as paint, paint thinners, glues, pesticides, and gasoline. It is found in inks, furniture wax, plastics, and rubber. Benzene is also found in emissions from burning coal and oil, vehicle exhaust, evaporations from gasoline stations, and tobacco smoke.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “chronic exposure to benzene is known to lead to progressive degeneration of the bone marrow and…eventually leukemia.”
Exposure that has no apparent effect on the exposed person right away may still result in diseases such as cancer and blood disorders. Twenty or more years may pass before people begin to develop symptoms.
More than three million workers are potentially exposed to it every year. The use of it as a solvent has been banned in the US for more than 20 years, but unfortunately, there is still benzene in most petroleum solvents. Workers may inhale vapors from the solvent or absorb vapors through their skin.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that 50% of the US population has been exposed to benzene through industrial sources such as oil refineries and chemical plants.
Benzene Exposure Risks if You Work in:
- chemical laboratories
- pharmaceuticals manufacturing
- industrial plants that manufacture or use benzene
- oil refineries
- chemical and petrochemical plants (including some offshore installations)
- pesticide (herbicide & insecticide) manufacturing
- gasoline distribution
- pulp and paper manufacturing
- wood stain and varnish manufacturing
- synthetic rubber production
- adhesive production
- shoe and leather manufacturing
Exposure Risks if You Work With:
- emissions from burning coal and oil
- motor vehicle exhaust
- spray painting
- industrial solvents
- evaporation from gasoline or service stations (gasoline fumes have 1,000 times the concentration recommended by the National Institute of Occupational and Safety Health)
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