What you need to know about benzene

KSDK – Benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer, was detected Saturday at the Bridgeton Landfill.We put together this list of key facts about the gas:

-Benzene has a sweet odor and is highly flammable. Its vapor is heavier than air, and may sink into low-lying areas

-Natural sources of benzene include volcanos and forest fires. It's also found in crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke.

-It is one of the top 20 chemicals for production volume in the U.S.

-Outdoor air contains low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, gas stations, motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions

-The air around hazardous waste sites or gas stations can contain higher levels of benzene than other areas

-A major source of benzene exposure is tobacco smoke

-Benzene leaks from underground storage tanks or from hazardous waste sites containing benzene can contaminate well water

-Benzene can cause bone marrow to not produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. It can also damage the immune system by changing the levels of blood antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells

-Signs of benzene poisoning include:

o Drowsiness

o Dizziness

o Rapid or irregular heartbeat

o Headaches

o Tremors

o Confusion

o Unconsciousness

o Death (at very high levels)

-Some woman who breathed high levels of benzene for a long period of time had irregular periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries.

-The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that benzene causes cancer – long-term exposure to high levels of the gas can cause leukemia

-No specific antidote exists for benzene poisoning. Victims are encouraged to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

-The EPA limits the percentage of benzene allowed in gasoline to an average of 0.62 percent by volume

(Source: CDC)


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