What is Benzene?
Benzene belongs to a class of chemicals called volatile organic compounds due to evaporating in the air and very quickly turning into vapour. The vapour can sink into low lying areas due to being heavier than air and is a colourless or light yellow liquid with a sweet smelling odour, it is also highly flammable.
Employees are exposed to benzene through contact and/or inhalation.
Effects of exposure
- Inhaling unusually high doses of benzene can cause difficulty in thinking, changes in heart function, unconsciousness, or death.
- Smaller amounts over longer periods of time can decrease the formation of blood cells.
- Benzene is considered to be a cancer-causing chemical.
- Long-term exposure effects the blood.
- Some women who breath high levels of benzene for many months can develop irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries. However, it is not known whether benzene exposure affects the developing fetus in pregnant women or fertility in men.
Symptoms of Exposure
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Death (at very high levels)
- Direct exposure of the eyes, skin, or lungs to benzene can cause tissue injury and irritation.
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