Exposure to benzene can pose several health risks and may cause acute or chronic health effects, depending on the level and duration of exposure. Benzene is a known carcinogen and can cause cancer, particularly leukemia and other blood disorders, even at low levels of exposure over long periods. Other potential health effects of benzene exposure include:
- Damage to bone marrow, which can lead to decreased red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
- Irregular heartbeats, rapid heart rate, and low blood pressure.
- Neurological effects such as dizziness, headaches, tremors, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
- Skin irritation and chemical burns, particularly from prolonged or direct contact.
- Reproductive effects, including decreased fertility and menstrual irregularities.
This compound is so detrimental to health that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for benzene in the workplace. But community exposure to benzene can come from many sources, such as cigarette smoke, gasoline, and industrial operations.
Refineries are one of the biggest emitters of benzene in the United States, and often exceed permitted limits. Are you downwind of one of these facilities? If you are unsure, the EPA has a great tool to locate refineries and view fence line monitoring data. Fence line data is what it sounds like – each facility has monitors located around the outside perimeter of its footprint. Unfortunately, it’s not the most intuitive website, and works best on a desktop/laptop.
Here’s a walkthrough of using the tool:
Scroll down to the map, navigate to your location, and click on one of the circles (each circle represents a single refinery). The darker the circle the higher the benzene output.
After selecting a single plant, you can view the detected level of benzene at each fence line monitoring location.
There’s also a table that shows compliance and average emissions per month.
If you are concerned about potential benzene exposure, 4U Health’s Environmental Toxins Test quantifies the amount of benzene and 13 other potentially harmful pollutants in your urine. It’s available without a doctor’s order, includes all of the supplies required for at-home collection, and a prepaid mailing label to send your sample back to the lab. If you have any questions about this or other tests please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.