I compiled this information from various website to bring awareness (passed it on to friends and family) so wanted to post it on here also.
The stuff is everywhere you look, apparently we have polluted our environment with it to the point where the government (EPA and FDA) even allow you to drink it. Note in red below where the API says even one molecule of the stuff is not safe to come into contact with.
What is benzene?
Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates quickly when exposed to air. Benzene is formed from natural processes, such as volcanoes and forest fires, but most exposure to benzene results from human activities.
Benzene is among the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States. It is used mainly as a starting material in making other chemicals, including plastics, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. In the past it was also commonly used as an industrial solvent (a substance that can dissolve or extract other substances) and as a gasoline additive, but these uses have been greatly reduced in recent decades.
Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil and gasoline (and therefore motor vehicle exhaust), as well as cigarette smoke.
Studies in people
Rates of leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML), have been found to be higher in studies of workers exposed to high levels of benzene, such as those in the chemical, shoemaking, and oil refining industries.
Some studies have also suggested links to childhood leukemia (particularly AML) as well as acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and other blood-related cancers (such as multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma) in adults. However, the evidence is not as strong for these cancers.
There is much less evidence linking benzene to any other type of cancer.
Studies done in the lab
When inhaled or swallowed, benzene has been found to cause different types of tumors in lab animals such as rats and mice. These results support the finding of an excess risk of leukemia in humans. However, most studies in humans have not found an increased risk of cancers other than leukemia among people with higher exposures.
Benzene has been shown to cause chromosome changes in bone marrow cells in the lab. (The bone marrow is where new blood cells are made.) Such changes are commonly found in human leukemia cells.
Benzene increases the risk of cancer and other illnesses. Benzene is a notorious cause of bone marrow failure. Substantial quantities of epidemiologic, clinical, and laboratory data link benzene to aplastic anemia, acute leukemia, and bone marrow abnormalities. The specific hematologic malignancies that benzene is associated with include: acute myeloid leukemia (AML), aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
The American Petroleum Institute (API) stated in 1948 that "it is generally considered that the only absolutely safe concentration for benzene is zero." The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) classifies benzene as a human carcinogen. Long-term exposure to excessive levels of benzene in the air causes leukemia, a potentially fatal cancer of the blood-forming organs. In particular, acute myeloid leukemia or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia (AML & ANLL) is not disputed to be caused by benzene. IARC rated benzene as "known to be carcinogenic to humans" (Group 1).
Because benzene is ubiquitous in gasoline and hydrocarbon fuels are in use everywhere, human exposure to benzene is a global health problem. Benzene targets liver, kidney, lung, heart and the brain and can cause DNA strand breaks, chromosomal damage, etc. Benzene causes cancer in animals including humans. Benzene has been shown to cause cancer in both sexes of multiple species of laboratory animals exposed via various routes.
Some women who inhaled high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries. Benzene exposure has been linked directly to the neural birth defects spina bifida and anencephaly. Men exposed to high levels of benzene are more likely to have an abnormal amount of chromosomes in their sperm, which impacts fertility and fetal development.
Exposure to benzene
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) (2007), benzene is both an anthropogenically produced and naturally occurring chemical from processes that include: volcanic eruptions, wild fires, synthesis of chemicals such as phenol, production of synthetic fibers, and fabrication of rubbers, lubricants, pesticides, medications, and dyes. The major sources of benzene exposure are tobacco smoke, automobile service stations, exhaust from motor vehicles, and industrial emissions; however, ingestion and dermal absorption of benzene can also occur through contact with contaminated water. Benzene is hepatically metabolized and excreted in the urine. Measurement of air and water levels of benzene is accomplished through collection via activated charcoal tubes, which are then analyzed with a gas chromatograph. The measurement of benzene in humans can be accomplished via urine, blood, and breath tests; however, all of these have their limitations because benzene is rapidly metabolized in the human body.
OSHA regulates levels of benzene in the workplace. The maximum allowable amount of benzene in workroom air during an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek is 1 ppm. Because benzene can cause cancer, NIOSH recommends that all workers wear special breathing equipment when they are likely to be exposed to benzene at levels exceeding the recommended (8-hour) exposure limit of 0.1 ppm.
Benzene is found in the air from emissions from burning coal and oil, gasoline service stations, and motor vehicle exhaust.
Natural Processes That Produce Benzene
Products Containing Benzene
Paint, lacquer, and varnish removers
Gasoline and other fuels
Adhesives and coatings
Industrial cleaning and degreasing formulations
Activities/Uses Involving Benzene
Emissions motor vehicle exhaust
Burning coal and oil
Painting and lithography
Making chemicals used to make:
Nylon and synthetic fibers
Making some types of:
Agricultural chemicals (pesticides)
Industries Using Benzene
Coke and coal chemical manufacturing
Rubber tire manufacturing
Gasoline storage, shipment, and retail operations
Plastics and rubber manufacturing
Occupations/People Who May Be Exposed To Benzene
Gasoline service station employees
Places Where Benzene May Be Found
Air around waste sites and gas service stations
Contaminated well water, as a result of benzene leaks from underground storage tanks or hazardous waste sites containing benzene
Component of gasoline
As a gasoline (petrol) additive, benzene increases the octane rating and reduces knocking. As a consequence, gasoline often contained several percent benzene before the 1950s, when tetraethyl lead replaced it as the most widely used antiknock additive. With the global phaseout of leaded gasoline, benzene has made a comeback as a gasoline additive in some nations. In the United States, concern over its negative health effects and the possibility of benzene's entering the groundwater have led to stringent regulation of gasoline's benzene content, with limits typically around 1%. European petrol specifications now contain the same 1% limit on benzene content. The United States Environmental Protection Agency introduced new regulations in 2011 that lowered the benzene content in gasoline to 0.62%.
Benzene found in soda
In November 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received private laboratory results reporting low levels of benzene in a small number of soft drinks that contained benzoate salts (an antimicrobial) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). FDA has no standard for benzene in beverages other than bottled water, for which FDA has adopted the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 ppb for drinking water, as a quality standard.