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What is Benzene, and what makes it so dangerous for humans?

Jul 20, 2021 | Benzene Exposure

Benzene is an organic chemical compound. It’s also known as C6H6 to chemists and in laboratories. This dangerous chemical is light yellow or colorless and has a sweet odor. Unfortunately, it is also highly flammable and may be misleading to those who aren’t familiar with it.

Benzene does not dissolve well in water, instead floating on it much like oil. It evaporates slowly and tends to sink down in the air.

Despite its dangers, benzene is used in many industries. It can be used to make synthetic and nylon fibers, for example, or it may be used to create plastics and resins. It’s actually among the top 20 chemicals used in the U.S. by production volume.

How are people exposed to benzene?

Benzene exposure happens more easily than you may think. Outdoor air may contain benzene. It’s most likely present at places like gas stations or in industrial emissions. The air around hazardous waste sites can also contain high levels of benzene. Interestingly, a major source of exposure is through tobacco smoke.

What makes benzene dangerous to people?

Benzene is dangerous to people because it has a negative effect on the cells in the body. It may cause your bone marrow to reduce the production of red blood cells. If that happens, you are more likely to develop anemia.

Benzene may also damage the immune system. It may affect the levels of white blood cells and antibodies, putting people at a greater risk of infection.

Recognizing benzene poisoning

Benzene poisoning causes symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sleepiness
  • Vomiting (if ingested)

In high quantities, benzene exposure could lead to convulsions and death.

What should those exposed to benzene expect in the future?

Long-term benzene exposure is hazardous to your health. It increases the risk of infection and bleeding. It may cause changes to the ovaries or cause delayed bone formation (in animals). Benzene also causes cancer, so it is possible to develop leukemia linked to benzene exposure.

If you’ve been exposed, get to know more about your rights. You should have the chance to make a claim for compensation for your injuries.