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Health Issues

The health risks associated with exposure to benzene have been known for many years. The compound has both chronic and acute effects whether ingested by mouth, taken in through the respiratory system, or absorbed through the skin. Acute effects resulting from inhalation include irritation of the mucous membranes, headache, instability, euphoria, convulsions, excitement or depression, and unconsciousness.

The ingestion of benzene has been associated with the development of bronchitis and pneumonia, while exposure through the skin can cause drying, blistering, and erythema (redness). Death can result from exposure to high concentrations of benzene. Chronic effects resulting from benzene exposure include reduced white and red blood cell counts, aplasia, and more rarely, leukemia.

See also Hydrocarbon.



Browning, E. Toxicity and Metabolism of Industrial Solvents. New York: Elsevier, 1965, pp. 3-65.

Carey, Francis A. Organic Chemistry. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Graham, John D., Laura C. Green, and Marc J. Roberts. In Search of Safety: Chemicals and Cancer Risk. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Purcell, William P. "Benzene." Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. 4th ed. Suppl. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.

Solomons, T. W. Graham. Organic Chemistry. 2nd edition. New York: John Wiley, 1980, Chapter 11.

David E. Newton


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—A medical condition that arises over a relatively brief period of time, reaches some crisis, and then may be resolved.


—In organic chemistry, a compound whose molecular structure includes some variation of the benzene ring.


—A disease or condition that devlops slowly and exists over a long period of time.


—A chemical reaction in which hydrogen is added to a compound.


—A molecule that consists of a few small units repeated over and over again many times.


—In organic chemistry, a chemical reaction in which an atom or group of atoms substitutes for a hydrogen atom in a molecule.


—A chemical process by which some new substance is produced by reacting other substances with each other.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ballistic galvanometer to Big–bang theoryBenzene - Structure, Properties, Benzene Derivatives, Uses, Health Issues