Monday, July 27, 2015

Benzene Exposure in Your Car

There is an email going about concerning the impact of Benzene exposure in cars when the windows are rolled up and temperature outside is high.  We would like to shed some light on the topic.

The email is as follows:
"Do NOT turn on A/C as soon as you enter the car. Open the windows after you enter your car and then after a couple of minutes, turn on the AC . Here's why:  According to research, the car's dashboard, seats, a/c ducts, in fact ALL of the plastic objects in your vehicle, emit Benzene, a Cancer causing toxin.  A BIG CARCINOGEN.  Take the time to observe the smell of heated plastic in your car when you open it, and BEFORE you start it up.

In addition to causing cancer, Benzene poisons your bones, causes anemia and reduces white blood cells. Prolonged exposure can cause Leukemia and increases the risk of some cancers.  It can also cause miscarriages in pregnant women. The "acceptable" Benzene level indoors is: 50 mg per sq.ft.

A car parked indoors, with windows closed, will contain 400-800 mg of Benzene - 8 times the acceptable level.If parked outdoors in the sun, at a temperature above 60 degrees F, the Benzene level goes up to 2000-4000 mg, 40 times the acceptable level.

People who get into the car, keeping the windows closed, will eventually inhale excessive amounts of the BENZENE toxin. Benzene is a toxin that affects your kidneys and liver. What's worse, it is extremely difficult for your body to expel this toxic stuff.  So friends, please open the windows and doors of your car - give it some time for the interior to air out – (dispel the deadly stuff) - before you enter the vehicle."

Like most things, there is a bit of truth and bit of fiction to the statements.
  • Benzene is carcinogenic.  Exposure to benzene has been linked to some types of cancers, like leukemia.
  • The plastic in cars does contain benzene - as well as a number of other toxic environmental chemicals.
  • The link between benzene exposure and cancer has only been done in those people with direct occupational exposure, such as chemical, shoe making and oil refinery jobs.  It has not been directly or adequately researched with respect to automobile exposure.
  • We are exposed to low levels of benzene from many sources - automobile exhaust; vapors from glues, paints and furniture wax and indoor air especially in new buildings.
Bottom line . . . 
  • It is generally better to ventilate a car when you first get in, if just to decrease the inside temperature and make it more comfortable.
  • The more time you spend in your car, the more you would benefit from paying attention to the materials in your car and the car's environment.
  • We are likely going to be exposed to many emails and messages about our toxic environment and it's impact to health.  It is true, our environment -- all aspects of our environment - are more toxic than they used to be.  The more you pay attention to those things that you are exposed to the most, the better for your health.

Additional information on Benzene : http://www.who.int/ipcs/features/benzene.pdf