Dangers of Benzene – The Facts

Have you ever received an email from a well-meaning friend passing on information that appeared credible on the surface, but turned out to have little real basis in fact? I received one such email about the dangers of high benzene levels inside hot cars. At first blush it appeared to be credible, but on further investigation the majority of the information, while sounding like definitive evidence, was inaccurate.

However, it was in researching the validity of this information that I found some useful information about benzene and ideas to lessen exposure to it.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), even though automobile exhaust is the largest source of benzene in the general environment, high levels have also been detected in indoor air. For this reason, people who spend more time indoors would have more exposure to benzene.

WHO states that benzene is carcinogenic to humans, and there is no safe level of exposure. Here is what they have to say:

“Benzene causes acute myeloid leukemia (acute non-lymphocytic leukemia), and there is limited evidence that benzene may also cause acute and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Individuals who have experienced benzene poisoning requiring treatment show a substantially increased risk of mortality from leukemia.”

I would recommend that as little time as possible be spent in areas of heavy car exhaust.

There are certain common houseplants that absorb benzene. For some suggestions, see my earlier blog post What Are You Breathing? Getting Rid of Indoor Air Pollution.

Since benzene exposure is known to occur with certain cleaning solutions and solvents, always check the labels of cleaning products. If you are exposed to products containing benzene at work, ask if your company will consider using products that have no benzene.

At home, natural cleaning solutions made with ingredients such as white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, etc. are a better choice for both your health and your wallet.

Do you have a favorite natural cleaning solution? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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