Benzene is a chemical converted into many substances and polymers used to create everyday products like clothing, paints, windows, plywood, and compact discs. Benzene, as it exists in these products, is harmless. However, Benzene in chemical form ranks among the top ten on the CERCLA Hazardous Substance List. Every year, more than 300,000 Americans are exposed to the chemical toxin Benzene. As a result of this exposure, more than 10,000 deaths occur in the United States each year.
Benzene has been linked to a number of debilitating side effects. Benzene is a carcinogen that is capable of forming multiple types of cancer in humans, including Leukemia. Inhaling Benzene vapors can cause immediate death and other exposures to the chemical have been linked to reproductive harm and aplastic anemia. Short-term exposure has been linked to irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, and throat, dizziness, nausea, convulsions, and even death. 6. Rapid heart beat 7. Sudden death
People working in industries that make or use Benzene may be exposed to the highest levels of the chemical. Painters, chemical workers, gasoline distributors, refinery workers, printers, newspaper press workers, and those employed in the rubber, pesticides, paper, and adhesives industries are often the most at risk due to the high levels of Benzene found in the products with which they work. Respirators, gloves, and safety clothing can reduce, but cannot eliminate, the threat of Benzene exposure.
Though many instances of exposure occur in the workplace, Benzene exposure is not merely an occupational hazard. Outdoor air contains detectable levels of Benzene from tobacco smoke, gas station emissions, automobile exhaust, and industrial pollution. The presence of glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents may lead to the presence of higher levels of Benzene in indoor air.
Significant levels of Benzene are found in tobacco smoke, thus smokers and those in the immediate area of smokers are at a high risk of exposure. Not surprisingly, the atmosphere around service stations and hazardous waste sites will generally contain significant levels of Benzene. Seepage from underground storage tanks, garbage dumps, or from hazardous waste sites can result in Benzene contamination of well water.