Benzene and Leukemia

The dangers of benzene have been known since the earliest part of the 20th century. Benzene was used in the manufacturing of artificial rubber, and by the time of the First World War, it was used in a variety of mechanical industries as well as explosives. Because at the time diagnostic science was a relatively young field, doctors could not adequately describe the manner in which benzene affected people except that reduction of exposure lead to reduction in related illnesses.

Aplastic anemia:

The first medical condition directly linked to benzene poisoning, aplastic anemia, was discovered in 1897. Aplastic anemia is an umbrella term for a group of blood-related conditions mostly characterized by the drop in or suspension of the production of blood. Due to the primitive state of medical technology, aplastic anemia caused a very quick and painful death for most people who contracted it. Benzene was suspected to cause more illnesses, but was considered too valuable to the war effort as a solvent and explosives ingredient to discontinue using.

After the discovery of the shape of the DNA molecule in 1958, scientists came to realize that the hexagonal shape of the benzene molecule allowed it to fit perfectly within the double helix structure of DNA. Part of the dangers of benzene is that it can be introduced into the body through several means, including inhalation, consumption, and even absorbed through the skin. Once inside the body, it is quickly absorbed by the blood, which then carries the toxin through out many internal systems. As the exposure level increases, benzene works its way into the DNA of the bone marrow, where it can cause several cancerous mutations, including leukemia.

Once mutated bone marrow cells being to replicate, they are carried throughout the body by the blood and settle in other parts of the body and metastasize, or spread their cancer to previously unaffected cells. As the cancer spreads from one part to another, the body begins to die, killed by its own cells. Scientists are still at a loss to explain the exact mechanism of the mutation, but nevertheless there is virtually complete consensus among doctors, the benzene industry, and the government that benzene exposure poses a significant threat to the health and safety of people and the environment.

Benzene Exposure:

Benzene is one of the most regulated chemicals in the United States. It is also one of the most widely produced and distributed; in fact, most city air contains significant amounts of benzene from car exhaust and cigarette smoke. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stipulates that because benzene is so dangerous, workers can only be exposed to one part per million parts of air per eight hour day a week! Benzene can also be absorbed through the skin, making it one of the most dangerous health risks in the United States today.

If you have been exposed to significant levels of benzene, consult your doctor immediately. Leukemia and other benzene-related diseases often have no immediate symptoms, but can be immediately life-threatening. Don't risk your health, your job, or your life.

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Page description: Benzene Danger and Leukemia Aplastic anemia, Benzene Exposure, benzene molecule