How can we recognize benzene

Benzene is a very potent carcinogen that has been linked with increased risk of leukemia.   Concerned people should try to avoid benzene whenever possible.

The biggest source of exposure may be inhalation of polluted air near gas stations and industrial hotspots.

Benzene is present in gasoline at 0.5 percent in the U.S. Car exhausts can be another major source of exposure.   5% of car exhausts (by weight) is benzene. This can be translated into 700 million pounds in a year.  Areas with heavy traffic tend to have high levels of benzene in the air.

Indoor air may also be polluted by benzene loaded volatiles from paints used in art and craft and household materials.

Benzene is also found in food including haddock fillet, red beans, blue cheese, cheddar cheese, cayenne pineapple, potato tubers, roasted filberts, cooked chicken, hothouse tomatoes, strawberries, black currants, roasted peanuts, soybean milk, codfish, and eggs. The list may not be complete.

But compared to the pollution from gas and car exhausts and certain industrial facilities, food may not be the major source of benzene pollution.   But eggs can contain up to 500 ug benzene/kg, which is fairly high compared to 2 ug/kg in canned beef.

Benzene has recently been found in some brands of soft drinks containing benzoate and vitamin C present.   With heat and or sunlight, benzoate in an acidic environment can be transformed into benzene.   Benzene can also found in drinks without benzoate and ascorbic acid. Such pollution may come from carbon dioxide used to carbonate soft drinks or from tap water.

But overall, risk from food is relatively small.   People need to pay attention to the air pollution.   The following tips may help.

1) Try not to go to gas station often.    When pumping gas, try not to inhale gas vapor.   When pumping gas is finished, leave gas station as quickly as you can.

2) Do not inhale car exhausts.   Do not keep cars running idle.   It's good for the engine, but not for your health.

3) Keep away from industria hot spots.  Try to live in a rural area if you can where much less benzene is found in the air.

4) Avoid using any thing smelly indoor.   Throw away smelly art and craft materials.   Any thing that comes with fresh paints, solvents, and dyes may likely carry more or less of benzene. (formaldehye is another risk).

5) Keep windows open as often as you can.   Indoor air is often of lower quality than outdoor's.

6) Educate children as well as yourself about the risk of benzene. Children are particularly susceptible to leukemia and the benzene pollution is likely a major cause.  So you know how to avoid the nasty cancer-causing agent.

© 2004-2008 by foodconsumer.org unless otherwise specified

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