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What is Benzene?

Benzene is a widely used chemical formed from both natural processes and human activities. Benzene is used to make a variety of chemicals. Some chemicals containing benzene are used to make resins, plastics, nylon, synthetic fibers, rubbers, dyes, detergents, pesticides, lubricants, etc.

Exposure to Benzene

Benzene can be emitted in the air through the burning of oil and coal. Most people are exposed to low amounts of benzene everyday. Outdoor benzene exposure can come from vehicle exhaust, gas stations, tobacco smoke, and industry emissions. Indoor exposure to benzene can come from paints, furniture wax, glues, detergents and anything else that has been formulated with the chemical. The levels of benzene you are exposed to indoors is usually higher than outdoors. Contaminated water can also contain benzene. 

Routes of Exposure to Benzene:

  • Inhalation
  • Skin/eye contact 
  • Ingestion (one of the more toxic routes of exposure)

Health Impacts of Benzene

Acute symptoms and effects of benzene:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting  (from high levels of ingestion)
  • Convulsions (from high levels of ingestion)
  • Death (from high levels of ingestion)

Long term health effects of benzene:

  • Cancer
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Weakened immune system (higher chance of infection)
  • Injury to reproductive organs
  • Delayed fetal bone formation

More information on the health effects of benzene

Protecting Yourself From Benzene Exposure

Leave the area where benzene has been released and try to get fresh air. If you have been exposed to benzene remove your clothes and wash your skin quickly using large amounts of soap. Dispose of your contaminated clothing in a sealed plastic bag. Click here for more information on how to protect yourself from benzene exposure.


More information on benzene: 

CDC info on exposure to benzene