What is benzene and what are its health effects? What is EPA doing about benzene?
"Benzene, a volatile organic chemical, is a clear, colorless aromatic liquid. It is highly flammable. It is formed through natural processes, such as volcanoes and forest fires. It is also formed from industrial processes. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke."
This information is taken from the Basic Information about Benzene in Drinking Water web page: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/benzene.cfm
Regulations restricting levels of benzene in drinking water are described at "What are EPA's drinking water regulations for benzene?" http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/benzene.cfm#four
Benzene can also be present in the air. According to EPA's Technology Transfer Network Air Toxics Web Site: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/benzene.html, "Benzene is found in the air from emissions from burning coal and oil, gasoline service stations, and motor vehicle exhaust."
EPA regulates benzene as a "mobile source air toxic." For details see "What is EPA Doing About Mobile Source Air Toxics?" at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/toxics.htm#epamsat.
The health effects of exposure to benzene are summarized at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/benzene.html:
"Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure of humans to benzene may cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation, and, at high levels, unconsciousness. Chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure has caused various disorders in the blood, including reduced numbers of red blood cells and aplastic anemia, in occupational settings. Reproductive effects have been reported for women exposed by inhalation to high levels, and adverse effects on the developing fetus have been observed in animal tests. Increased incidence of leukemia (cancer of the tissues that form white blood cells) have been observed in humans occupationally exposed to benzene. EPA has classified benzene as a Group A, human carcinogen."
For more information on benzene and its health effects, see:
- National Library of Medicine: Tox Town: http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=5
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: ToxFAQs for Benzene: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=38&tid=14
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Safety and Health Topics: Benzene:
- NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards: Benzene http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0049.html
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- Topic #: 23002-22213
- Date Created: 7/26/2005
- Last Modified Since: 9/10/2014
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