What are benzene uses?
As a building block chemical, benzene is reacted with other chemicals to produce a variety of other chemistries, materials and, ultimately, consumer goods. Benzene is used to make some types of dyes, detergents and pharmaceutical drugs, for example.
What are products with benzene?
Benzene is used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, pharmaceutical drugs, explosives and pesticides.
Is benzene ever found in the environment?
Yes. Benzene is found naturally in the environment, and it also is emitted from industrial sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency closely monitors and sets strict limits on benzene emitted from industrial sources.
Is benzene toxic or dangerous?
The seriousness of poisoning caused by benzene depends on the amount, route, and length of time of exposure, as well as the age and preexisting medical condition of the exposed person. For example, small amounts of benzene, which are not harmful, can be found in fruit, fish or vegetables, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. However breathing very high levels of benzene, or eating or drinking foods contaminated with high levels of benzene, can cause serious health effects or death.
You can be exposed to higher than normal levels of benzene at work if you work at a facility that makes or uses benzene, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. In those industrial settings, exposure to benzene can be reduced by using engineering controls and personal protective equipment.
How are people exposed to benzene?
Everyone is exposed to a small amount of benzene every day, according to the CDC. People can be exposed to low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, automobile service stations, exhaust from motor vehicles and industrial emissions. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the highest exposures to benzene have typically been in the workplace where workers produce or use benzene, although federal and state regulations have reduced these exposures in recent decades. Similarly, limits on the amount of benzene allowed in gasoline have contributed to reduced exposures.
In industrial settings, OSHA monitors and regulates benzene exposure to protect human health.
What are the health effects of benzene?
Breathing benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and unconsciousness; long-term benzene exposure causes effects on the bone marrow and can cause anemia and leukemia. More information about health effects can be found on the CDC’s website.