What is Benzene?
Benzene is a colorless, organic chemical compound formed from natural processes. The sweet-smelling substance is flammable and quickly evaporates upon exposure to air. The volatile organic chemical is harmful to both human health and the environment.
According to statistics, it is considered among the 20 most used chemical in the United States. As a result, more and more people are exposed to this chemical contaminant.
What Types of Industrial Uses Does it Have?
The organic chemical compound is mainly used as an intermediate to manufacture other chemicals including lubricants, dyes, rubber, plastics, and pesticides. Benzene is also a natural ingredient of crude oil and gasoline. It is an essential constituent of most fuels used by vehicles. However, due to the rise of awareness on the health dangers of the chemical substance, it is gradually replaced by toluene as a gasoline additive. Although its substitute is not entirely safe either, it is less toxic compared to the previously used chemical compound. Benzene is also a natural ingredient found in cigarette smoke.
How Does Benzene Get into Your Drinking Water?
The primary sources of the chemical contaminant in drinking water are the incidental or intentional release of benzene from chemical factories. Leaks from gas storage tanks and landfills may also lead to contaminated water systems. Since leaching is quite common in most gas storage tanks, both private wells, and public water systems are prone to chemical contamination.
What are the Health Risks Associated with Benzene?
According to the experts, overexposure to the organic chemical compound benzene can have adverse effects on your health. So whether you’re exposed for a short or long time doesn’t really matter as long as you’ve consumed benzene in your drinking water in excess of the EPA’s drinking water regulations.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, benzene is considered as a class A carcinogen. In short, it increases the risks of acquiring cancer when exposed to higher levels of benzene for quite some time.
Acute exposure to the chemical substance at higher levels may lead to adverse health effects including neurological effects, skin irritations, respiratory problems, and even death. An individual who’s overexposed to benzene above the maximum contamination level may experience neurological effects like dizziness, drowsiness, and even loss of consciousness. Headaches are also quite common when the individual is unconsciously consuming the chemical contaminant. Consuming benzene in drinking water can cause respiratory issues. The substance will irritate your respiratory system and cause problems in your breathing. The use of benzene-contaminated water for bathing can cause skin and eye irritations. Overall, you don’t have to be exposed to the chemical substance for a long time to experience its health effects.
On the other hand, chronic exposure to benzene can cause more serious problems to the human body. Long term exposure to the substance in your drinking water may lead to hematological issues or blood-related problems. As a result, the individual exposed to the chemical compound will experience blood cells or bone marrow production problems due to the damages to the tissues. Long term exposure means that the individual is exposed to the substance for more than a year. The dangerous effects on the bone marrow can lead to a decrease in the blood cells. This decrease in blood cells will then lead to anemia. Chronic exposure to high levels of the substance benzene can also lead to the lowering of the immune system as well as excessive bleeding and other deficiencies.
Benzene in your drinking water may also affect women and pregnant women. According to medical studies and research, constant exposure to the organic chemical compound may lead to a decrease in the size of ovaries as well as pregnancy problems. The developing child inside the womb is also affected by the chemical contaminant when the mother is exposed during her pregnancy. Additionally, reproductive issues are also experienced by women who were exposed to benzene.
Lastly, benzene is rated as a class a carcinogen by the EPA meaning it will significantly increase the chances of getting cancer when exposed to it for quite some time. Therefore, the substance must be removed from your drinking water upon detection.
How Common is Beneze in Water?
Unlike other chemical contaminants, benzene can only be found in water systems near chemical factories and gas storage facilities. It is a common contaminant in the United States since it is among the 20 widely used chemical in the country.
What is the EPA’s Contamination Level Standards for Benzene in Drinking Water?
The maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG) for benzene is zero. The EPA has established the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for the water pollutant at 0.005 mg/L or 5 ppb. These drinking water standards are followed to avoid the health dangers of the chemical substance found in water systems.
What is the Best Reduction Media for Removing Benzene from Drinking Water?
There are several removal techniques to remove benzene from drinking water. The best way to bring down the levels of the substance to 0.005 mg/L or 5 ppb is through a combination of granular activated carbon (GAC) and packed tower aeration.
Some of the best water filtration systems today are capable of removing benzene and other chemical contaminants from drinking water. An AquaOx filter system can get rid of most of the chemical contaminants found in tap water.
If you’ve detected benzene or any chemical substance in your water, get a water filter system to raise your line of defense and to protect your family from the potential health dangers of the organic chemical compound.
From The Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Affected Organ Systems: Hematological (Blood Forming), Immunological (Immune System), Neurological (Nervous System)
Cancer Classification: NTP: Known to be a human carcinogen. EPA: Known human carcinogen. IARC: Carcinogenic to humans
Chemical Classification: Hydrocarbons (contain hydrogen and carbon atoms), Volatile organic compounds
Summary: Benzene is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates into the air very quickly and dissolves slightly in water. It is highly flammable and is formed from both natural processes and human activities.
Benzene is widely used in the United States; it ranks in the top 20 chemicals for production volume. Some industries use benzene to make other chemicals which are used to make plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers. Benzene is also used to make some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.