Benzene is a chemical used in many common industrial products. It is dangerous to come into contact with and can cause a number of unpleasant or even life-changing symptoms and illnesses.
The following information will inform you about the effects of benzene and what to do in case you are exposed.
What is Benzene Poisoning?
Benzene is a colorless petroleum-based chemical that is used to manufacture industrial dyes, explosives, synthetic rubber, detergents, plastics and pesticides. It is also found in gasoline and the smoke that comes from cigarettes.
It is not legal or safe for benzene to be used in home cleaning products, toys or equipment and is only fit for industrial purposes. It has a very sweet odor, similar to the odor of gas.
There is a window of time after smelling benzene during a leak to be able to take action or leave the area without any harm, but persistent exposure can be dangerous.
It is highly flammable with a very low flash point. It is heavier than air, so during a leak it tends to be found down low in sewer areas where it can pool.
Benzene poisoning occurs after the chemical is swallowed, inhaled or touched with exposed skin.
Immediate action must be taken following contact.
Where is Benzene Found?
As mentioned, Benzene can be found in gasoline and diesel fuel. It is a common ingredient in many industrial solvents and can also be added to paints and lacquers.
It can be released into air via sprays and aerosols, mists, or vapors which can be especially harmful in an agricultural setting. It can also be found in contaminated water or food.
Signs of Benzene Exposure
If you’ve been exposed to benzene, the symptoms you experience will be dependent on the type of poisoning you’ve had.
Ingesting the substance can cause discomfort in the stomach and a loss of appetite. It can affect the nervous system through being ingested or inhalation, and symptoms of this will include dizziness, drowsiness, headache, euphoria, weakness, convulsions, or even unconsciousness.
When benzene comes into contact with the lungs, the symptoms can be a tight and uncomfortable chest as well as rapid breathing. Outward symptoms include pale skin or small bumps on the skin.
It is possible in extreme cases that you can go into shock and collapse.
What to Do If You Suspect Benzene Exposure
If you think you may have been exposed to benzene, the first step is to seek professional medical assistance. It is essential that you do not try to vomit up the chemical if you have swallowed it.
While you are waiting for assistance, flush out any benzene that might be in the mouth or eyes for at least fifteen minutes. The emergency services will need to know your age, weight, the time the product was swallowed / inhaled, and the exact name of the product. If you are calling on behalf of someone else, you’ll still need all of this information in advance so that the medical team can treat the patient quickly and effectively.
You can also contact the national poison line, but in the first instance it should be a medical professional.
When you reach the hospital, blood tests will be taken, fluids will be delivered through an IV, and you may be required to undergo an endoscopy. This is where a camera looks into your stomach via the throat to ensure there’s no permanent damage.
Outlook after Benzene Exposure
The faster you seek medical advice and assistance after exposure, the more likely you are to have a quick recovery. When the poisoning is severe, or when there is a dramatic reaction, death is a possibility and can occur anywhere up to three days after the incident.
There are a number of illnesses that you can develop when you are exposed to this chemical long term. Some of these are lymphoma, anaemia and leukaemia.
This is why it’s important that precautions are taken when working regularly with benzene.
Benzene poisoning can be a serious and life altering accident, but there are ways to protect yourself to ensure you remain safe. If you feel you or a loved one has experienced benzene poisoning, call us or visit our website for more information on your legal options.