Symptoms of Benzene Exposure

People who work around benzene are at especially high risk of benzene exposure.

The EPA and OSHA weigh in
Because of these risks, the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration have imposed strict regulations for employees and employers when working with benzene. This can help minimize benzene exposure and its side effects.

A number of side effects are associated with long-term or high-level exposure to benzene. Some of these benzene side effects cause discomfort and pain (from mild to intense), whereas others can result in death.

Symptoms of benzene exposure include:

• Rapid heart                          • Vomiting
• Headaches                           • Unconsciousness
• Dizziness and confusion        • Drowsiness
• Risk of excessive bleeding     • Convulsions


Benzene and leukemia

Benzene exposure can trigger the onset of leukemia. There are three main kinds of leukemia associated with benzene exposure: acute myelogenous leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, and acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Not only has research shown benzene to be a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemical, but long-term benzene exposure has been linked to various forms of leukemia by studies published as early as 1922. [Timeline of events]

Benzene production has risen over the years, as has the level of exposure to it. According to a recent EPA study, toxic chemical pollution nationwide increased by 5% in 2002, although some people insist that benzene levels in the air may be five times higher than that official estimate.

The problem is even worse for workers, as an estimated 3 million workers per year are exposed to benzene—regardless of the rigid standards imposed on the workplace.

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