Benzene, an organic compound of crucial importance in various fields, is omnipresent in our society. It is found in pharmaceutical products, plastics, cars and detergents. This colorless, flammable and volatile liquid is frequently used in various industrial processes.
Despite its essential role as a solvent and raw material in the manufacture of many chemical products, it is also recognized for its cancer-causing properties. It is also recognized for its carcinogenic properties. Appropriate use and strict safety measures are therefore essential to minimize the risks associated with its use.

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Published on 18 March 2024

What is Benzene?

In this article:

Benzene, a chemical organic compound?

A chemical compound

Benzene’s molecular nature, structure and reactive properties make it a chemical compound. As an aromatic hydrocarbon, it consists of carbon and hydrogen atoms with a chemical formula of C6H6.

Benzene is a liquid at room temperature. It can evaporate into the air due to its colorless, volatile nature. However, inhaling benzene can be harmful due to its proven toxicity and carcinogenic effects. Inhaled vapors can cause serious health problems.

Because of these chemical characteristics, it is used as a raw material in the manufacture of a variety of chemicals. However, because of its harmful effects, it is imperative to take stringent precautions. This is to protect human health and minimize the risks associated with its use.

The history of Benzene

Benzene, discovered in 1825 at the Royal Institute in London, was first isolated by the renowned scientist Michael Faraday.

This organic chemical compound, with a molecular formula of C6H6, belongs to the category of aromatic hydrocarbons, featuring a hexagonal ring structure known as the benzene ring. Each of the six carbon atoms in the ring links to a hydrogen atom.

In addition to its hydrophobicity, which makes it water-repellent, Benzene is highly flammable. This is due to its volatility, spreading rapidly through the air.

Mainly used as a chemical precursor, Benzene plays a crucial role in the manufacture of products such as nitrobenzene. It is also essential in the production of plastics, notably polystyrene, thanks to compounds such as styrene.

Where does Benzene come from?

At industrial level

Benzene is produced by various industrial chemical processes, but can also be extracted from natural sources or generated as a by-product in certain industries.

Benzene is widely used in the manufacture of products such as plastics, resins and synthetic fibers. It plays a leading role in many sectors, including rubber and many others.

It’s crucial to note that Benzene is not only an essential ingredient in industrial production, but also considered an air pollutant. Prolonged exposure to it is associated with adverse health effects. This reinforces the need for control and precautionary measures in its use and handling.

Air quality

Benzene can be found in ambient air in a variety of ways, from human activities to natural sources. However, it is essential to emphasize that Benzene is frequently referred to as an air pollutant. Strict regulations are in place to limit its emissions, thus ensuring the protection of air quality.

Classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC), Benzene emanates from a variety of sources. The main ones include vehicles, factories and various industrial activities.

Monitoring and regulating Benzene in the air are crucial aspects of ensuring ambient air quality and, consequently, protecting public health. These measures aim to minimize the population’s exposure to potentially harmful levels of Benzene, thus helping to preserve a healthy environment.

What are the effects of Benzene on humans?

Health effects

The symptoms and effects of Benzene vary according to the type and duration of exposure, and can occur through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.

Common symptoms include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, vomiting and irregular heartbeat. More serious cases can result in altered mental status, loss of consciousness and even severe intoxication.

Although low levels of Benzene in the air are generally considered harmless. High concentrations, however, can lead to poisoning. Symptoms often appear within a few hours of exposure.

Prolonged exposure can affect the blood, with adverse consequences for bone marrow. This can cause a reduction in the number of red blood cells, leading to anemia. In addition, prolonged exposure to benzene can compromise the immune system.

It’s important to note that Benzene is classified as a carcinogen. This means that prolonged exposure to this substance increases the risk of developing cancers, in particular leukemia.Thus, taking preventive measures is imperative to minimize the health risks associated with this chemical substance.

How can I prevent Benzene?

Taking adequate precautions to avoid exposure to benzene is essential. This means providing adequate ventilation in areas where benzene is used. The use of appropriate personal protective equipment and strict adherence to the safety guidelines indicated on the labels of products containing Benzene are also necessary.

Industries handling this substance are generally subject to strict regulations designed to minimize health risks. The rigorous application of these measures helps to ensure the safety of workers and the public. It also aims to prevent the adverse effects associated with exposure to Benzene.

Detecting the presence of Benzene in a confined space is difficult unless you use a device called a Volatile Organic Compounds sensor. Nexelec has a wide range of sensors capable of measuring and analyzing this pollution remotely. Intelligent and connected, the VOC sensor incorporates the latest technology, taking measurements remotely and storing them in a secure cloud.

What’s more, the products are also capable of detecting many other pollutants, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), noise, brightness, presence and formaldehyde (HCHO). To help you better manage your heating strategies, the devices measure room temperature and humidity.