Essay on Toxicology
Number of words: 821
Chemicals and toxicants can affect the human health and safety of individuals in a variety of ways. Safety inspectors must thus be thorough in their inspection and assessment of industrial facilities such as manufacturing and pharmaceutical plants, in order to accurately identify the nature of chemicals or toxicants in the workplace and prescribe mitigative measures accordingly. This assignment will discuss the chemical benzene, and identify the chemical properties and toxic levels for this chemical. The assignment will then discuss the type of workplace where this chemical could occur, and how exposure could occur. Finally, this assignment will end with an overview of the toxic effects produced from exposure to this chemical, and discuss how to prevent toxic exposure through treatments and mitigative measures.
Benzene is a toxic chemical with the chemical formula C6H6, which typically occurs as a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid or vapor. It is commonly used as one of the top twenty industrial chemicals in the United States, as a component of motor fuels, and as a common solvent for rubber, resins, oils, fats and seed oil extraction (Liebenberg, 2018). Benzene may also be used in the production of pharmaceuticals, dyes and explosives. Benzene is commonly found in manufacturing industries, where emissions from the burning of oil, use of industrial solvents, and production of plastics and rubbers could lead to higher levels of benzene in the ambient atmosphere (Liebenberg, 2018).
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) level for workplace benzene exposure is 1 part per million (PPM) on a normal workday and a maximum of 5 ppm over any given 15-minute period (Mulia et al, 2020). In drinking water, benzene should be limited to 5 parts per billion (ppb). Finally, benzene’s reference concentration is at 0.03 mg/m3, with any inhalation or exposure above this level leading to potential toxic effects (Mulia et al, 2020).
Benzene is typically inhaled by workers as part of the air in the working environment, and may have the following impacts on individual health, as a result of travel through the respective pathways. Foremost, benzene may enter the respiratory tract and cause irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract (Wallace, 2016). Benzene may also result in neurological issues such as headaches, migraines, dizziness and drowsiness, and in cases of acute exposure, vomiting and convulsions. Chronically, benzene may also result in in blood disorders through absorption in the bone marrow tissue, and may lead to aplastic anemia and immune system damage (Wang et al, 2021). Furthermore, exposure beyond the reference concentration level is carcinogenic, and may result in the development of leukemia, or cancer of the white blood cell tissues (Wang et al, 2021).
Benzene exposure can occur according to three routes. Foremost, inhalation-based exposure can proceed through the respiratory tract and impact nearby organs, such as the eyes and throat, as a localized effect. Secondly, dermal exposure, which is minor, can lead to skin irritation as a localized effect. Finally, oral exposure can lead to immediate absorption in the bloodstream and surrounding organs, and can cause acute symptoms such as convulsions and vomiting, as a systemic effect (Mulia et al, 2020). Benzene is also carcinogenic and allergenic.
Toxic exposure to benzene should be prevented and mitigated through the following measures. Foremost, air-based exposure to benzene should be mitigated through ventilation of the affected area, and evacuation of all workers in the impacted area. Secondly, workers exposed to benzene by skin contact should remove their clothing, taking care not to expose others to the chemical, and wash themselves as quickly as possible. Affected clothes should be bagged and handed over to emergency personnel and health department officials for disposal through the appropriate channels. Finally, benzene poisoning does not have an antidote, and should be treated in a hospital setting with an appropriate IV drip and endoscopy.
Liebenberg, L. (2018). Occupational cancer-workplace carcinogen: benzene. Occupational Health Southern Africa, 24(2), 59-60. https://journals.co.za/doi/abs/10.10520/EJC- e30628eed
Mulia, S. A., Rahman, Z. F., Sugiharta, A. M. B., Susanti, L., & Tualeka, A. R. (2020). Evaluation of Benzene Threshold Value in Benzene Exposed Work Environment: Case Study at Ciputat Gas Station. Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, 14(1), 359-364. http://repository.unair.ac.id/93298/
Richards, I. S., & Bourgeois, M. M. (2014). Principles and practice of toxicology in public health (2nd ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Robinson, L. (2019). A practical guide to toxicology and human health risk assessment. Wiley- Blackwell. https://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781118881903
Wallace, L. A. (2016). Major sources of benzene exposure. Environmental Health Perspectives, 82, 165-169.
Wang, T. S., Bo, S. O. N. G., Sun, Q. H., Lin, Y. X., Yuan, S. U. N., Pin, S. U. N., & Xia, Z. L. (2021). Occupational Health Risk Assessment of Benzene, Toluene, and Xylene in Shanghai. Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, 34(4), 290-298. https://doi.org/10.3967/bes2021.038