Chemical
Beware of benzene: Keep kids away from dangerous fumes!

Beware of benzene: Keep kids away from dangerous fumes!

January 30, 2013

Benzene is a volatile organic compound (VOC) used in paints, plastics, rubber, resins, synthetic fabrics, pesticides, adhesives, and detergents.  It’s also a natural component of tobacco smoke, gasoline and automobile exhaust (which are typically our main sources of exposure).

The  health impacts associated with benzene include:

  • Cancer, particularly leukemia and other cancers of the blood and blood-producing organs, such as multiple myeloma.
  • Decrease in red blood cells leading to anemia; bone marrow damage, including myelodysplastic syndromes; excessive bleeding; immune system depression; drying and scaling of skin.
  • Effects on the central nervous system ranging from drowsiness, dizziness, sleepiness, rapid heart rate and headache to loss of consciousness. Death may result from respiratory failure due to central nervous system depression.
  • Chromosomal damage.
  • In test animals, benzene inhalation during pregnancy has caused low birth weights, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage.

Here are easy steps to help you and your kids avoid benzene:

  • Keep kids away from benzene in gasoline fumes as much as possible. Children may inhale gasoline fumes at filling stations, so fill-up when the kids aren’t with and avoid pumping gas if you’re pregnant. Kids may also be exposed to benzene in home garages due to fumes released from gas in fuel tanks. Don’t let your kids play in the garage when the garage door is closed. If your garage is connected to your home, put up a vapor barrier on any shared walls. (This vapor barrier is special plastic sheeting that can be used underneath drywall.)
  • Don’t smoke or let anyone smoke around your children.
  • Choose least-toxic, low-or no-VOC paints, sealants, adhesives and cleaning products. Research your options because labels are often misleading.
  • Avoid operating small household combustion engines, such as lawnmowers, in enclosed spaces like garages or workshops. Start them outdoors.