The detrimental health effects of benzene exposure should be central in the U.K’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) Clean Air Strategy, said Steve Billingham, chief executive of Duvas Technologies, and reaffirms the importance of mandatory air quality monitoring.
Duvas wrote the commentary in Air Quality News, in response to Defra’s call for responses from the industry, environmental NGOs, the health sector and general public, regarding the strategy. The draft mentions several pollutants, “however, there is little mention of other damaging pollutants that may be detrimental to human health if ignored – benzene for example,” Billingham wrote.
Benzene is a chemical found in vehicle emissions, cigarette smoke, and the production of crude oil. It is a highly flammable and volatile liquid that evaporates quickly. If inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin, benzene can enter the bloodstream and damage DNA, leading to blood cancers like acute myeloid leukemia, or AML. The World Health Organization says there is no safe exposure limit for benzene.
Those working in places where benzene is present – including fracking sites, gas stations and distilleries, to name a few – are at increased risk of suffering serious health consequences, including leukemia, due to long-term exposure. Brief exposure at high levels can also kill. Lower levels can cause vomiting, dizziness and unconsciousness.
“In the Clean Air Strategy consultation draft, benzene is referenced once (under a list of pollutants) in regards to ambient air quality standard,” Billingham wrote. “Benzene takes somewhat of a back seat, clarifying a lack of knowledge and application of the chemical’s hazardous properties. From this we can gather no further action is going to be taken on benzene that is not already legislated.”
Billingham called for benzene to be placed higher on the planning and legislation hierarchy of the Clean Air Strategy. “Not only this, but precise and detailed monitoring should be mandatory to ensure that enough is being done and to safeguard workers and residents across the U.K.”
Source: Air Quality News