BENZENE Benzene is a clear, colorless, aromatic hydrocarbon which has a characteristic sickly, sweet odor.

It is both volatile and flammable. Benzene contains 92.3 percent carbon and 7.7 percent hydrogen with the chemical formula C6H6. The benzene molecule is represented by a hexagon formed by the six sets of carbon and hydrogen atoms bonded together with alternating single and double bonds. The benzene molecule is the cornerstone for aromatic compounds, most of which contain one or more benzene rings. Benzene is nonpolar, meaning it carries no major area of charge in any portion of the molecule and no net electrical charge considering the molecule as a whole. It is relatively soluble in water and is capable of mixing with polar solvents (solvents which carry major portions of opposing charges within the molecule) such as chloroform, acetone, alcohol, and carbon tetrachloride without separating into two phases. Benzene is a highly stable aromatic hydrocarbon, but it does react with other compounds primarily by substitution of a hydrogen atom. Some reactions occur which can rupture or cleave the molecule.

Sources Benzene is released to the environment by both natural and industrial sources, although the anthropogenic emissions are undoubtedly the most important. Emissions of benzene to the atmosphere result from gasoline vapors, auto exhaust, and chemical production and user facilities. EPA's estimate of nationwide benzene atmospheric emissions from various sources was 34,000 metric tons/year (EPA 1989). According to the Toxics Release Inventory, releases to the air from manufacturing and processing facilities were about 6,7 million pounds (3,055 metric tons) in 2004 (TRI04 2006). Releases to air accounted for about 93% of the total industry-related releases to the environment (TRI04 2006). Benzene is released to water and soil from industrial discharges, landfill leachate, and gasoline leaks from underground storage tanks. Chemical degradation reactions, primarily reaction with hydroxyl radicals, limit the atmospheric residence time of benzene to only a few days, and possibly to only a few hours. Benzene released to soil or waterways is subject to volatilization, photooxidation, and biodegradation. Biodegradation, principally under aerobic conditions, is an important environmental fate process for water- and soil-associated benzene. Benzene is subject to indirect photolysis in sunlit surface water, but does not undergo direct photolysis. For direct photolysis to occur, a substance must absorb photons of light >290 nm. During indirect photolysis, light energy is absorbed by other constituents (photosensitizers) of the media (water, soil) and the excited species can then transfer energy to benzene (indirectly promoting it to an excited electronic state), or lead to the formation of reactive species, such as singlet oxygen or hydroxy radicals, which react with benzene. Humic and fulvic acids are wellknown photosensitizing agents and are practically ubiquitous in natural waters. A half-life of

The rate of volatilization and leaching are the principal factors that determine overall persistence of benzene in sandy soils. A substantial portion of any benzene in rainwater that is deposited to soil or water will be returned to the atmosphere via volatilization. and extent of degradation. The soil organic carbon sorption coefficient (Koc) for benzene has been measured with a range of 60–83. with a solubility of 1. amount of rainfall. Greater soil adsorption was observed with increasing organic matter content . An investigation of the mechanisms governing the rates of adsorption and desorption of benzene by dry soil grains revealed that periods of hours are required to achieve equilibrium and that adsorption is much faster than desorption . Benzene is readily degraded in water under aerobic conditions. benzene showed a tendency to adsorb to aquifer solids.2 mm Hg at 25 °C.16. to surface water through runoff. only 8% (4 mg/L) of the initial 50 mg/L dose of benzene remained . A study of the degradation of benzene by the microbial population of industrial waste water at 23 °C using a shaker flask system showed that after 6 hours. depth of the groundwater. Results of a biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) test determined that benzene was completely biodegradable after the second week of static incubation at 25 °C at benzene concentrations of 5 and 10 mg/L using domestic waste water as the microbial inoculum. Benzene is moderately soluble in water.g. and to groundwater as a result of leaching. sand versus clay). Transport and Migration The high volatility of benzene is the controlling physical property in the environmental transport and partitioning of this chemical. and the Henry's law constant for benzene (5.780 mg/L at -3 3 25 °C. In a study of the sorptive characteristics of benzene to groundwater aquifer solids.9 days was reported for photolysis of benzene dissolved in oxygen-saturated deionized water and exposed to sunlight (Hustert et al.. Benzene released to soil surfaces partitions to the atmosphere through volatilization. Studies suggest that benzene does not . indicating that benzene is highly mobile in soil and readily leaches into groundwater. some minor removal from the atmosphere via wet deposition may occur. Other parameters that influence leaching potential include the soil type (e.5x10 atm-m /mole at 25 °C) indicates that benzene partitions readily to the atmosphere from surface water . Water from a petroleum production site was successfully biotreated for complete removal of benzene using a flocculated culture of Thiobacillus denitrificans strain F and mixed heterotrophy. Since benzene is soluble in water. Benzene is considered to be highly volatile with a vapor pressure of 95. 1981).

Use of alcohol enhances the toxic effect. Seven nonsmoking subjects from this study group were assessed for blood Health effects Acute effects Acute occupational exposure to benzene may cause narcosis: headache. Benzene causes acute myeloid leukaemia (acute non-lymphocytic leukaemia). tremors and loss of consciousness. Benzene can be detected in blood samples. respectively. The International Agency for 1. drowsiness. In a study designed to establish reference blood concentrations of benzene and other selected volatile organic compounds in the general population of the United States. dizziness. 2 Benzene is a moderate eye irritant and a skin irritant.bioaccumulate in marine organisms. Chronic exposure to benzene can reduce the production of both red and white blood cells from 2 bone marrow in humans. Ashley et al.13 and 0. (1994) measured blood benzene levels in 883 people (not occupationally exposed) in the United States who had participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Within this group of nonoccupationally exposed subjects. .3 Research on Cancer has classified benzene as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).061 ppb. Effects following chronic exposure 1. resulting in aplastic anaemia. The bioconcentration/ bioaccumulation potential of benzene in aquatic organisms of the open coastal ocean was investigated Exposure Exposure to low levels of environmental benzene is unavoidable due to the ubiquitous presence of benzene in the environment from a variety of anthropogenic sources. the mean and median blood benzene levels were 0. non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Individuals who have experienced benzene poisoning 3 requiring treatment show a substantially increased risk of mortality from leukaemia.3 Benzene is a well-established cause of cancer in humans. and there is limited evidence that benzene may also cause acute and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. 2 7 confusion.

Metabolism in both systems involves cytochrome P-450 dependent mixed-function oxidase enzymes. and to the lung and spleen. However. 2 However. Benzene has also been found to cross the placenta into cord blood following inhalation exposure.Both B-cell proliferation and T-cell proliferation are reduced by benzene. stomach. Of these metabolites. As a result. Metabolism The metabolism of benzene is thought to be qualitatively the same for animals and humans. kidney. Benzene’s mechanism of toxicity is thought to be a . Following inhalation exposure. similar pathways of metabolism exist for both animals and humans. Decreased host resistance to infection has been reported in several laboratory animals exposed to benzene. Distribution Benzene is lipophilic and readily distribute into fatty tissue. brain. No studies were located that describe the distribution of benzene in humans following oral exposure. liver. distribution to the blood. Chromosomal aberrations in human peripheral lymphocytes are associated with occupational exposure to benzene. In animals. benzene is predominantly metabolized in the liver. Benzene dihydrodiol is also excreted as glucuronide and sulphate conjugates. to well-perfused tissues such as the liver and kidney. both more and less toxic metabolites are formed. but parent benzene is preferentially stored in fat. Other animal inhalation studies show benzene is distributed to lipid – rich tissue such as brain and fat. and bile have all been observed. During the metabolism. Cytochrome P-450 is found throughout the body but is concentrated in the liver. other measures of immunotoxicity have not been studied. benzene is distributed to most areas of the body following dermal exposure. but is mainly distributed to the kidney and liver. In fact. animal studies show that benzene is distributes into most tissues No studies were located concerning the distribution of benzene following dermal exposure in humans. sister chromatid exchange and sperm head abnormalities have been seen in laboratory species treated in vivo. Chromosomal aberrations. glucuronide and sulphate conjugates of phenol are found in the urine. Chromosomal aberrations and mutations were seen in human cells in vitro and in laboratory animal cells in some in vitro studies. Animal studies indicate that absorbed benzene is distributed throughout most of the body. micronuclei.

Last updated 10/16/1998. Excretion Human and animal data show that following inhalation and oral exposure to benzene.result of the covalent binding of its metabolites to cellular macromolecules. (1998. France. April 10) Carcinogenic effects of benzene: An update. Suppl. 1998 IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer). 120).S. Only minor excretion of benzene occurs through the feces. Office of Research and Development. Animal studies also suggest that REFERENCES. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Humans. Updating and Revision of the Air Quality Guidelines for Europe: Report on a WHO Working Group on Volatile Organic Compounds. Benzene. . Prepared by the National Center for Environmental Health. EPA. Hydroquinone and muconic dialdehyde are thought to be responsible for hematological effects following exposure. Benzene. 1995. Belgium 206 October 1995. International Agency for Research on Cancer. U. 1998 IRIS Database. Lyon. USEPA. These macromolecules include proteins and nucleic acids. 7 (1987) (p. DC. Washington.the main route of excretion of unmetabolized benzene is exhalation and the main route of excretion of metabolized benzene is the urine. WHO. WHO. Brussels. EPA/600/P97/001F.