Information on Benzene
The first major industrial use of benzene was in the rubber industry when they used the carcinogen as a solvent before World War I. During WWI, toluene was used in the manufacturing of explosives and increased the production of benzene greatly. Soon benzene was being used readily as a solvent in artificial leather, rubber goods, and rotogravure printing industries and as a starting material in organic synthesis. The expanded use of benzene following WWI resulted in a number of reports of chronic benzene poisoning in workers finding their way into the scientific literature. The growing knowledge of the hazardous conditions associated with benzene, and the seriousness of the health effects that resulted, led to a gradual substitution of other solvents in the place of benzene. Thus, there was soon a noticeable decrease in the number of benzene poisoning cases reported.
In 1967, about 800 million gallons of benzene was produced in the U.S. By 1969, it had increased to 1.2 billion gallons, with about 16% of the production coming from coal. Today, benzene mainly comes from the petroleum industry as it is produced as a petrochemical from paraffinic hydrocarbons. There are estimates that more than 3 million workers are still potentially exposed to benzene every year through industries and processes using benzene. These include coke and gas, chemical, printing and lithography, paint, rubber, dry cleaning, adhesives, petroleum, and coatings. Chemical laboratories use benzene as a solvent and a reactant in many types of chemical applications.If you have been exposed to the human carcinogen benzene and would like to learn more about your legal rights, contact us.