What is benzene, the chemical detected at increased levels at the ITC facility in Deer Park?

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Thursday, March 21, 2019
Risks of Benzene
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The alert on higher levels of benzene sounds frightening because it's a known carcinogen.

Elevated levels of benzene following the ITC facility tank fire prompted schools to cancel classes, cities to ask residents to shelter-in-place and raised health concerns for many.

Officials said Thursday morning that an odor may be noticeable to the community, after an ITC official said an employee with a handheld monitoring device detected the elevated levels of benzene.

Here's what we know about the chemical, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

It is a colorless or light yellow liquid that smells sweet and is highly flammable.

Benzene is widely used in the United States with some industries to make other chemicals used for plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers. The chemical is also used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides.

The chemical is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.

Signs and symptoms of benzene exposure include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death (at very high levels)

If you consume food or drink beverages with high levels of the chemical, it can make you vomit, irritate your stomach, cause dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, rapid or irregular heartbeat or death (very high levels).

Go to the CDC website for more information.

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