Benzene is a naturally occurring chemical compound commonly found in crude oil. However, in 1948 the American Petroleum Institute found that exposure to benzene was unsafe at any level. Here are a few important facts about benzene exposure you may not have known.
1. Benzene Is Easily Encountered
While crude oil, or petroleum, is naturally found beneath the earth, there are other instances where people can find benzene in nature, including volcanic eruptions and wildfires. Most people, however, encounter benzene on a regular basis. Every time you fill up your gas tank, for example, you might smell a distinct scent emanating from the pump. The sweet smell is benzene. Cigarette smoke and secondhand smoke also account for half of all exposure numbers in the United States. Glues, solvents, paints, art supplies, and auto exhaust also contain the substance.
2. Benzene Causes Cancer
Benzene is a carcinogen, meaning increased contact with the chemical will heighten your chances of developing cancer. Many studies have shown a correlation between benzene exposure and the formation of aplastic anemia, acute leukemia, and bone marrow defects.
3. It Has Short-Term Effects
In addition to cancer, benzene has other harmful effects. Even limited exposure to the chemical can cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, confusion, tremors, or loss of consciousness. If it appears in food or drink, it can also cause stomach issues, such as vomiting, irritation, convulsions, sleepiness, dizziness, or a high heart rate.
4. Benzene Is Regulated But Not Banned
For now, both the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) govern allowable levels of benzene in the workplace and in drinking water. Employers can expose their workers to 1 part benzene per million parts of air during an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek. And, while benzene levels in water should be nonexistent, the maximum contaminant level for the toxin in drinking water is 0.005 milligrams per liter.
5. Apart from Smokers, Industrial Workers Are Most at Risk
While the average smoker takes in about 1.8 milligrams of benzene a day, about 238,000 people are exposed to benzene on the job. Those who work in benzene production are at the highest risk, but other jobs include elevated levels of exposure, including:
- Petrochemical work
- Petroleum refining
- Coke/coal chemical manufacturing
- Rubber tire manufacturing
- Rubber workers
- Lab technicians
- Gas station workers
6. Benzene Levels Are Hard to Detect
If you’re worried about exposure levels, some tests show whether you’ve been in contact with the chemical recently. However, because benzene rapidly disappears in the blood and doesn’t accumulate in the body, long-term exposure is hard to determine.
If you’ve been exposed to illegal amounts of benzene in your workplace or at home, contact one of our Pennsylvania benzene exposure lawyers. We’re experienced with representing victims and their families. Call us at (888) 498-3023 or fill out our online form for a case consultation.