Benzene is one of the most common dangerous substances humans encounter on a regular basis. The colorless and highly evaporative chemical comes from petroleum and poses serious health risks. While some exposure to the chemical is unavoidable in daily life, concentrated or prolonged exposure will lead to adverse health conditions.
This sweet-smelling hydrocarbon exists in both liquid and gaseous states. It’s highly flammable and evaporative. Trace amounts are in the natural environment and some foods. You will find the chemical in cigarette smoke, gasoline, exhaust, and in forest fires. In industrial environments, companies also use the chemical to manufacture everything from plastic products to insecticides.
When a human encounters the gaseous form of benzene, half of it goes back into the environment upon exhalation. The body stores the other half in fat and bone marrow until the body can break it down. During metabolism of the chemical, the body creates byproducts that are more dangerous than benzene itself.
In daily life, you are not likely to come into dangerous concentrations of benzene. Those who work in petroleum product rich manufacturing environments, who smoke heavily, and who are exposed to gas leaks may suffer the most from the chemical’s ill effects. Benzene can enter the body through inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion. The amount of benzene absorbed into the body will affect the severity of symptoms a person experiences.
Long-term benzene exposure can cause cancer, immune system damage, and neurological damage. It poses a heightened risk to children and expectant women. Concentrated benzene exposure can cause blurred vision, nausea, heartbeat irregularities, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, breathing difficulties, confusion, sleepiness, unconsciousness, and death within minutes or hours.
If you have reason to believe you encountered benzene in any form, take the following steps immediately:
Report the incident and seek medical attention even if you believe you removed all the contaminated clothing and successfully rinsed the chemical from your body. The colorless chemical could affect you more than you know.
There is no targeted antidote for benzene poisoning. Medical treatments vary depending on the nature of the exposure and the symptoms a patient experiences.
Concentrated benzene exposure rarely happens without some form of human negligence. Gas leaks, industrial chemical exposure, and water contamination almost always occur because someone failed to use an appropriate level of care while handling this highly toxic substance.
If you or someone you know suffered acute or long-term effects from benzene toxicity, you may want to discuss legal options with a personal injury attorney. The World Health Organization considers benzene a significant public health concern, and nobody should have to suffer from the chemical’s after-effects.