Benzene and Pollution
Benzene is typically a transparent, highly volatile and flammable, colorless hydrocarbon with a gasoline-like smell. It is present in crude oils and also occurs as a by-product of oil refining processes. Benzene is only slightly soluble in water, even though it mixes well with most carbon-containing solvents. For ages, it has been used in the manufacture of a wide range of chemical products such as insecticides, DDT, motor fuels, paints, plastics, coatings, lubricants, and detergents among others.
So what are the sources of benzene?
It is imperative to note that the primary source of benzene is from vehicle exhausts as well as other combustion processes from companies either using or producing it. It also occurs naturally and can be emitted into the environment through volcanic eruptions as well as forest fires. Interestingly, though, Benzene is also found in certain plants. All in all, the man’s activities are the primary sources of this compound. As such, it is not by coincidence that benzene is currently one of the top twenty most used chemicals and is present in the environment in abundance as a result. The question now becomes, what impact does it have on the atmosphere?
Potential harmful effects of benzene.
The amounts of benzene, brought about by automobile exhausts, the use of dyes, paints and the suchlike, pose insignificant risks to the immediate environment. Because of its tendency to react with other chemicals in the air, it is usually quickly diffused after a few days of exposure. As a result, it is virtually harmless. Don’t get it wrong, though, since apparently, a mass introduction into the atmosphere would lead to volatile levels of benzene. However, such a scenario is rare.
Again, small concentrations of the chemical do not affect the aquatic fauna and flora to a great extent. Benzene has a low level of toxicity, a phenomenon which affects the marine life, and it typically remains present for extended periods in groundwater and soil than it does in the open air. However, a significant release or accidental spillage of benzene into a body of water or open air can lead to harmful effects on the environment. Industrial plants or any other facility that either use or manufactures benzene in their daily processes can have significant levels of the substance in their surrounding, and this could prove hazardous not only to the present employees but the wider environs. The contamination of the soil, the local water sources, as well as the air and the general pollution effects the mass introduction of benzene would have on the fauna and flora, can be higher than previously imagined.
In the atmosphere, benzene reacts with other compounds to create smog. Even though this could potentially break down naturally, it can attach to snow and rain and transported through the ground, contaminating soil and water as a result.
The effects on humans.
The exposure of humans to benzene has been linked to a range of long-term and acute health effects and diseases, including aplastic anemia and certain types of cancer. Because it is very unstable; the exposure occurs through inhalation.
It is imperative to note that this chemical is a proven carcinogen. And because of this, benzene is always avoided in many practices. The daily exposure or inhalation of benzene, such as from the vaporization of petrol during refueling of cars, from cigar smoking, being in contact with detergents, furniture wax, glues are not regarded as an immediate risk to human health.
Nevertheless, the exposure to extremely high benzene levels can result in fatal health effects to humans. This is however very rare and might only occur in the wake of a mass leakage. When applied directly to the skin, Benzene is extremely toxic. Extensive studies have revealed that the prospect of inhaling benzene could lead to the damage of the blood-forming organs in humans. Again, the inhalation of the ground level ozone, a compound which benzene is often involved in its formation, might exacerbate certain respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Again, benzene is a well-established cause of cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified it as a carcinogenic to humans. Constant occupational exposure to benzene might cause dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness, headaches, and tremors.
How might individuals get exposed to benzene?
You can be exposed to benzene in some ways including:
• Residing near industries and other manufacturing plants that either use or produce benzene, as well as living close to freeways and busy roads.
• Being an employee in an industry where benzene is used or created.
• Eating foods or drinking water that contains benzene, even in smaller amounts.
• Inhaling air containing benzene, through smoking or in exhaust fumes.
The Bottom Line.
It is a fact that benzene has a lot of uses, both domestically and industrially. However, it is a well-known carcinogen, and the current concerns are centered on the impacts of its continuous exposure to low concentrations, both environmentally and occupationally. In fact, studies have revealed that it is a harmful element with potential adverse effects. Hopefully, the article has looked into the various sources as well as the presumed adverse effects of benzene on the humans and the environment at large.