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.
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David E. Newton