The effects of benzene poisoning vary, depending on the amount and the length of time for which one is exposed to this chemical. The following HealthHearty write-up provides information on this condition.
Benzene has been classified as a naturally-occurring human carcinogen. It can also be created artificially. This colorless, aromatic hydrocarbon has a relatively high melting point, and is known to be highly inflammable. Earlier, this chemical was used in gasoline, but after its carcinogenic activity was discovered, its use was restricted.
However, it is still considered an important constituent in the manufacture of products such as drugs, plastics, synthetic rubber, and dyes. Crude oil is known to contain benzene as a natural constituent and so do volcanic emissions. Forest fires are known to produce this chemical in the nature. It may also be produced by synthesizing other compounds present in petroleum. Care must be taken to avoid exposure to this chemical, due to its carcinogenic nature.
Exposure to this hydrocarbon occurs in the event of direct contact or inhalation of its vapors. The common symptoms that might be experienced by someone who has been exposed to this chemical include:
- Weakness or fatigue
- Rapid pulse
- Loss of consciousness
Intensive research has shown that prolonged exposure can also put a person at an increased risk of developing immune system diseases, leukemia, or other kinds of cancers.
The risk of exposure to this chemical is higher if:
- One works in industries dealing with the manufacture of runner, lubricants, plastics, dyes, pesticides, detergent, and petroleum products.
- One is exposed to exhaust from automobiles and smog-producing components, contaminated air in gas stations, and even tobacco smoke.
- Some people are of the opinion that the dashboards, car seats, and air fresheners inside a car emit this potentially harmful chemical.
Benzene poisoning is not curable. However, there are ways for managing the symptoms for short and long-term exposure. There are certain important things which you can do when you suspect that you have been exposed to this chemical.
- Try to move away from the area where you have been exposed to this chemical, and get fresh air.
- If you feel that you have been exposed, remove your clothing and take a shower. Get yourself cleansed with large amounts of soap and water, as soon as possible.
- Do not keep the contaminated clothes inside your car or house.
- While getting rid of the benzene-contaminated clothing, try to rip the clothes, instead of pulling them over the head.
- Also, while helping someone, wear protective gloves and try to avoid direct contact.
- Seal the clothes in a plastic bag. Hand it over to the health department or emergency personnel.
- If you were wearing contact lenses during the exposure, then dispose them, along with the clothing.
- If you were wearing eyeglasses, wash them with soap and water before you use them again.
If you feel that the water supply of your house might be affected, then it’s advisable to drink only bottled water, until you are sure of its safety. Also, if you suspect someone to be suffering from benzene poisoning, call 911 immediately, instead of taking matters into your own hands.