Air quality standards for benzene in Ontario that have been 10 years in the making were set to be finalized as law on July 1 – but the petrol industry doesn’t want to comply. The industry wants an exception, claiming the new standard would be too “economically challenging” for them to meet.
According to a report in Huff Post Politics, “Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is working to accommodate a request from two of the province’s largest industrial benzene emitters — the petroleum refining and petrochemical manufacturing industries. These industries want to develop a special ‘technical standard’ for benzene, which would exempt some emitters from the air quality standard if they meet certain technological, monitoring and reporting requirements. In short: these industries want to play by their own set of rules.”
Benzene is emitted by many different sources – cars, gas stations, steel mills, petrol plants, and more. It is used in the process of making plastics, nylons, latex, resin, pesticides, prescription drugs and household cleaning products.
With the chemical being so widely used, it seems logical that limits should be set on benzene emissions. Establishing limits may also trigger a chain reaction that will encourage others to set standards of their own. For example, in June 2014, the state of California lowered the level for long-term exposure to benzene to 1 parts per billion from the former 20ppb, making this among the lowest benzene levels in the U.S.
Benzene exposure is dangerous and can cause life-threatening diseases including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), lymphomas and aplastic Anemia. Exposure can happen anywhere and in different forms.
Benzene is a key ingredient in gasoline, and can be absorbed into the skin. Once it reaches the bloodstream, it can make its way into the bone marrow, which starts damage that can lead to leukemia.
It can also be consumed from contaminated drinking water. Despite this, just last week a state panel in Florida approved an increase in the levels of benzene allowed to pollute Florida’s waterways.
The most common way that a person is exposed to benzene is through inhalation. This is particularly concerning for people who work in close proximity to benzene or benzene-containing products, such as people who work in the petrochemical industry, because exposure can happen without the person being aware of it.