Benzene

Why am I being warned about potential exposure to benzene?

  • Benzene is on the Proposition 65 list because it can cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm
  • Exposure to benzene can cause leukemia.
  • Exposure to benzene during pregnancy may affect development of the child. It may also harm the male reproductive system.
  • Proposition 65 requires businesses to determine if they must provide a warning about exposures to listed chemicals.

What is benzene?

  • Benzene is a colorless and highly flammable liquid with a sweet smell. It evaporates into the air quickly.
    • Benzene, while not in the final product, is used in the manufacture of drugs, dyes, insecticides, plastics, resins, rubber, detergents, and other chemicals.
    • Benzene is present in natural gas and petroleum products such as crude oil and gasoline.
    • Gasoline, motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions are major sources of benzene in the air. 
    • Tobacco smoke contains benzene.

How does exposure to benzene occur?

  • During pregnancy, benzene can pass from the mother to the baby.

How can I reduce my exposure to benzene?

  • Do not smoke. Do not allow children to breathe tobacco smoke.
  • Limit your and children’s contact with gasoline and its fumes.
    • Pump gasoline carefully to avoid exposure to liquid and fumes.  If possible, stand a few steps away from the gasoline-pump nozzle while filling your car.
    • Limit time spent near idling car engines.
    • Do not idle car engines in attached garages.
  • Ventilate homes and attached garages well to get fresh air.
  • If you use well water, have it tested for benzene contamination. (If your water comes from a public supplier, it is already tested regularly for benzene).
  • If you think you may have a natural gas leak in your home, such as a low-level leak associated with any natural gas-powered appliance, have it inspected and fixed.  If there is a strong gas odor, leave the building immediately.

For more information:

General Benzene Fact Sheets and Resources:

Proposition 65:

  • California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA)
    Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)

Scientific Information on Benzene:

Posted March 2016

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