Benzene is a colourless, volatile liquid that is a known carcinogen. It is present in many consumer products, such as petrol, paints, varnishes and solvents. It is also formed during the combustion of organic materials. Exposure to benzene can occur through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.
Because of the health risks it poses, it is compulsory to monitor occupational exposure.
What occupational activities are affected by exposure to benzene?
The main occupational activities concerned by exposure to benzene include:
- The manufacture of products containing benzene, such as petrol, paints, varnishes and solvents.
- Transporting products containing benzene.
- The use of products containing benzene, such as mechanics, painters, varnishers and welders.
- Management of benzene-containing waste, such as paint waste, varnish waste and solvent waste.
- Combustion of organic materials
- The steel industry
Occupations exposed to benzene are those that involve handling products containing benzene, such as petrol, paints, varnishes, solvents, lubricants, cleaning products and combustion products.
Some occupations are particularly exposed to benzene:
- Service station staff
- Oil refinery workers
- Chemical plant workers
- Construction workers
If you work in an occupation exposed to benzene, it is important to talk to your employer about the risks, preventive measures and carrying out an occupational exposure test for benzene.
What illnesses are linked to exposure to benzene?
Exposure to benzene can lead to a number of health problems, including :
- Fertility problems
- Immune deficiency
- Brain tumours
- Heart problems
- Developmental disorders
Why measure occupational exposure to benzene?
Measuring occupational exposure to benzene is important for reducing the risk of cancer and illness in the workplace. This measurement makes it possible to identify exposed workers, assess benzene exposure levels, check whether exposure exceeds the occupational exposure limit value (OELV) and implement preventive measures to reduce their exposure.
The main measures to prevent exposure to benzene include :
- Using ventilation to remove benzene from the air
- Wearing personal protective equipment, such as respirators and gloves
- Training workers on the risks of benzene
- Implementing safe working procedures
- Measuring occupational exposure to benzene is an important tool for protecting workers from the harmful effects of this toxic substance.
How is occupational exposure to benzene measured?
Occupational exposure to benzene is measured using passive ambient air sensors worn by workers exposed to benzene or placed in areas where workers are exposed to benzene. The sensor is exposed throughout the working day.
The samples are then analysed in the laboratory to determine the concentration of benzene in the air. The concentration of benzene in the air must not exceed the Occupational Exposure Limit Value (OELV). As benzene is a carcinogen with no risk-free threshold, the aim must be to reduce exposure to benzene as much as possible.
"The VLEP for benzene is set at 3.25 mg/m3 in France and Europe and 1.6 mg/m3 in the United States.
These limit values are defined by law. If the concentration of benzene in the air exceeds the VLEP. The employee can exercise his right to withdraw and the employer must take measures to reduce workers' exposure to benzene.
The analysis kits offered by EXPOZOM can be used to measure occupational exposure to benzene.
INERIS : Benzene
INRS : Benzene
NIH : Overview of occupational exposure to benzene and occupational exposure limits in Europe and North America
CDC : Benzene
Ministère du travail : Benzene