Benzene is a highly flammable, colorless liquid, that evaporates quickly into the air. Workers may be harmed from exposure to benzene, but it not only affects workers. Mainstream cigarette smoke is also a source of benzene. If you or a loved one have developed a blood cancer (like leukemia), contact our team of lawyers at McEldrew Purtell today by filling out our form of calling 1-866-521-0865.

Benzene is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates into the air very quickly and dissolves slightly in water. Benzene is highly flammable and is formed from both natural processes and human activities.

What are common sources of benzene?

Benzene ranks in the top 20 chemicals for production volume in the United States. Some industries use benzene to make other chemicals which are used to make plastics, resins, nylon, and other synthetic fibers. It is also used to make some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Natural sources of benzene include emissions from volcanoes and forest fires, and it is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.

How are people exposed?

People can also be exposed to this chemical by either working in industries that use or make benzene, or from the outdoor air/products that contain low levels of benzene.

Workplace Exposures

Workers in industries that make or use benzene may be exposed to this chemical. These include:

  • Chemical plants
  • Firefighters
  • Gas station employees
  • Gasoline-related industries
  • Lab technicians
  • Oil refineries
  • Printers
  • Rubber industry
  • Shoe manufacturers
  • Steel workers

Community Exposures

Benzene is commonly found in the air in both urban and rural areas, but the levels are usually very low. Exposures can be higher for people in enclosed spaces with unventilated fumes from gasoline, glues, solvents, paints, and art supplies. Areas of heavy traffic, gas stations, and areas near industrial sources may also have higher air levels.

Cigarette smoke accounts for about half of the exposure to benzene in the United States. People can be exposed to benzene in the environment from:

  • Automobile exhaust
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Emissions from some factories
  • Gasoline fumes
  • Secondhand cigarette smoke
  • Waste water from certain industries

What health problems are caused by exposure to benzene?

Benzene is a potentially dangerous chemical. High levels of exposure can cause both short-term and long-term health effects.

Short-Term Effects

Breathing in high doses of benzene can affect the nervous system. This can lead to drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, tremors, confusion, and/or unconsciousness. Consuming foods or fluids contaminated with high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, stomach irritation, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, and rapid heart rate. In extreme cases, inhaling or swallowing very high levels of benzene can be deadly. Exposure to benzene liquid or vapor can irritate the skin, eyes, and throat. Skin exposure to benzene can result in redness and blisters.

Long-Term Effects

Long-term exposure to benzene mainly harms the bone marrow (the soft, inner parts of bones where new blood cells are made). This can result in:

  • A low red blood cell count (Anemia) – which can cause a person to feel weak and tired
  • A low white blood cell count – which can lower the body’s ability to fight infections and might even be life-threatening
  • A low blood platelet count – which can lead to excess bruising and bleeding

There is also some evidence that long-term exposure to benzene might harm reproductive organs. Some women who have breathed in high levels of benzene for many months have had irregular menstrual periods and ovary shrinkage, but it is not known for sure if benzene caused these effects. It is not known if benzene exposure affects the fetus in pregnant women or fertility in men.