Benzene

Benzene has been one of the most studied and litigated chemicals in the US. Its toxicology has been of concern since the 1930s, when rubber workers started developing aplastic anemia from increased exposures. Over the past 70 years, occupational exposures have remained of interest with the focus almost entirely on an increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) from elevated benzene exposures.

Paustenbach and Associates has studied benzene extensively since 1988 and has published over 20 papers on benzene toxicology and benzene exposures. We continue to provide support to our clients on these matters. Our experts have served on numerous science advisory panels, given over 50 depositions and have participated in numerous trials involving exposures to low and high concentrations of airborne benzene.

A short list of projects that we have worked on in the past and our publications are provided below.  

Key Projects

  • Evaluated the lessons learned in the Shanghai Health Study (SHS) of occupational exposure to benzene conducted in the 1990s era. Reviewed all the published and unpublished work related to the SHS study and conducted a comprehensive assessment of what was learned. We published the results of our assessment in Critical Reviews in Toxicology in late 2017.
  • Assessed the occupational risk of benzene and butadiene in a non-refinery setting. We evaluated 10,000 industrial hygiene samples collected in a chemical plant over the course of 30 years, and then conducted a health risk assessment of the workers (spring of 2015).
  • Evaluated the occupational exposure of benzene to pressmen (1938-2006). In 2012, we were retained by a solvent manufacturer who sold benzene to companies that made ink solubilizer for use in the printing industry. There were claims that pressmen had been overexposed to benzene as a result of this (and similar) products which contained 2-50% benzene).
  • Evaluated the inhalation hazard associated with using solvents containing less than 0.1% benzene sold between 1955-1975. During these years, a number of paints and solvents were sold into commerce that contained relatively small concentrations of benzene (usually as a trace contaminant). Allegations have been made that although OSHA concluded that these cleaners/solvents did not pose a significant human health hazard, literally thousands of law suits were filed between 2007 and the present asserting that this was not the case. We were retained in 2011 by numerous clients to evaluate their own data or data from simulation studies to estimate exposure of workers and any related health hazards.
  • Evaluated the health risks to the remediation teams, on the boats, at the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in Louisiana. In the Spring and Summer of 2010, the BP oil rig off the Louisiana coast was the cause of the largest oil spill in history. ChemRisk was contacted by both PRPs about the possible benzene, xylene and toluene hazards to the boatman. Nearly 35,000 samples were evaluated and, interestingly, we found that the concentrations of benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene were no greater during the remediation than during regular use of the boats for fishing. These results were presented in the fall of 2010 at two major scientific meetings. The results were published in a major journal. No compensation was received.
  • Evaluated the historical exposure of tire workers to benzene. From about 2005-2010, ChemRisk collected industrial hygiene data from a tire manufacturing plant and estimated the typical airborne concentrations in the facility over a period of about 30 years. This study may result in a journal article on this topic.
  • Assessed the historical exposures to workers who used mineral spirits assumed to contain “trace concentrations of benzene” (between 0.001 and 1%). In 2007, conducted a simulation study that characterized the near-field and far-field airborne concentration of benzene exposure to workers who use reasonable quantities of mineral spirits. The results were published in 2012. 
  • Evaluated possible human health hazards posed by benzene in soft drinks. In 2006 and 2007, there were reports regarding the detection of benzene in certain fruit-flavored soft drinks. As a public service, conducted a pro bono sampling program and risk analysis of a particular manufacturer’s soft drinks. The results have been presented in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Assessed benzene exposures to ship workers (various locations). In 2004-2005, conducted an exposure assessment of persons who loaded and unloaded fuel oils from ships. 
  • Dose reconstruction of benzene in the Pliofilm (Rubber) workers (National). In 2001-2002, conducted an update of Dr. Paustenbach’s prior (1992) exposure analysis of this cohort, using Monte Carlo techniques and some recently discovered data. The analysis used virtually all of the available methodologies for characterizing the plausible range of exposures to this cohort. This analysis will be published in Toxicology and Environmental Health.
  • Assessed benzene exposure from diesel exhaust from locomotives (South Dakota). During 1999-2000, conducted a series of dose reconstruction studies in a turn-of-the-century roundhouse involving diesel exhaust, nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, and benzene. These studies were performed because of the application of a different legal standard regarding causation criteria with respect to occupational exposure of railroad workers. A question was raised regarding the possibility that benzene present in diesel exhausts could contribute to an increased incidence of leukemia and other diseases in these workers.
  • Assessment of the benzene hazard posed by mineral spirits (Arizona). In 1999, conducted a series of dose reconstruction experiments to evaluate benzene hazards in railroad workers. It was alleged that, from 1960-1990, mineral spirits might have contained enough benzene to be measurable in air and, therefore, increase the probability of developing acute myelogenous leukemia in railroad workers. A manuscript describing the work was published.
  • Assessment of benzene in indoor air as a result of contaminated soil (California). In the mid-1990s, for the plaintiffs (homeowners), managed risk assessment that evaluated cancer risk due to potential indoor exposure to benzene emitted from contaminated soil underlying residences.
  • Retrospective exposure assessment of benzene (Pliofilm) workers. In 1991-1993, under a contract with American Petroleum Institute (API), reviewed industrial hygiene and process engineering records for three pliofilm manufacturing facilities in Ohio and reconstructed the likely uptake of benzene by almost 400 different people who worked during the period 1939-1976. These exposure estimates were then combined with mortality data, and the cancer potency factor for benzene based on the human epidemiology experience was calculated. Our work was considered during the 1997 reassessment of the USEPA/OSHA cancer potency factor for benzene. The current TLV [0.3 ppm (1994)] was based on our analysis. Work was published in a peer-reviewed journal, which has been frequently used in international regulations involving benzene.
  • Assessment of exposure to airborne selexol (Chicago, IL). In 1990, evaluated the potential health hazards to the community following an episodic event where a chemical used to scrub gaseous vinyl chloride and benzene emissions from landfill gas was accidentally released to the atmosphere.

Publications

  • Gross, S.A. and D.J. Paustenbach. 2018. Shanghai Health Study (2001-2009): What was learned about benzene health effects? Crit Rev Toxicol. 48(3):217-251.
  • Sahmel, J., K. Devlin, A. Burns, T. Ferracini, M. Ground, and D. Paustenbach. 2013. An analysis of workplace exposures to benzene over four decades at a petrochemical processing and manufacturing facility (1962-1999). J Tox Env Health A. 76(12):723-746.
  • Hollins, D.M., B.D. Kerger, K.M. Unice, J.S. Knutsen, A.K. Madl, J.E. Sahmel, and D.J. Paustenbach. 2013. Airborne benzene exposures from cleaning metal surfaces with small volumes of petroleum solvents. Int J Hyg Env Health 216(3):324-332.
  • Novick, R.M., J.J. Keenan, S.A. Gross, and D.J. Paustenbach. 2013. An analysis of historical exposures of pressmen to airborne benzene (1938-2006). Ann Occup Hyg. 57(6):705-716.
  • Knutsen, J. S., B. D. Kerger, B. Finley, and D. J. Paustenbach. 2013. A calibrated human PBPK model for benzene inhalation with urinary bladder and bone marrow compartments. Risk Anal 33 (7):1237-51.
  • Gaffney, S.H., J.M. Panko, K.M. Unice, A.M. Burns, M.L. Kreider, R.H. Gelatt, L.E. Booher, and D.J. Paustenbach. 2011. Occupational exposure to benzene at the ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, TX (1978-2006). J Exp Sci Env Epidemiol. 21:169-185.
  • Widner, T.E., S.H. Gaffney, J.M. Panko, K.M. Unice, A.M. Burns, M. Kreider, J.R. Marshall, L.E. Booher, R.H. Gelatt, and D.J. Paustenbach. 2011. Airborne concentrations of benzene for dock workers at the ExxonMobil refinery and chemical plant, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA (1977-2005). Scand J Work Env Health. 37(2):147-158.
  • Galbraith D., S.A. Gross, and D.J. Paustenbach. 2010. Benzene and human health: A historical review and appraisal of associations with various diseases. Crit Rev Toxicol. 40(S2):1-46.
  • Paustenbach, D.J., J.S. Knutsen, D.M. Hollins, J.E. Sahmel, A.K. Madl. 2010. Comparison of modeled and measured concentrations of airborne benzene from the use of petroleum-based solvents spiked with low levels of benzene. Chemico-Bio Inter 184:296–298.
  • Keenan, J.J., S.H. Gaffney, D.A. Galbraith, P. Beatty and D.J. Paustenbach. 2010. Gasoline: A complex mixture or a dangerous vehicle for benzene exposure? Chem-Biol Interact. 184(1-2):293-295.
  • Kreider, M.L., K.M. Unice, J. Panko, A. Burns, D.J. Paustenbach, L.E. Booher, R.H. Gelatt, and S. Gaffney. 2010. Benzene exposure in refinery workers: ExxonMobil Joliet, Illinois, USA (1977-2006). Tox Ind Health. 26(10):671-90.
  • Panko, J.M., S.H. Gaffney, A.M. Burns, K.M. Unice, M.L. Kreider, L.E. Booher, R.H. Gelatt, J.R. Marshall and D.J. Paustenbach. 2009. Occupational Exposure to Benzene at the Exxon Mobil Refinery at Baton Rouge, Louisiana (1977-2005). J Occup Environ Hyg. 6(9):517-29.
  • Williams, P.R.D., J.M Panko, K. Unice, J.L. Brown, and D.J. Paustenbach. 2008. Occupational exposures associated with petroleum-derived products containing trace levels of benzene. J Occup Environ Hyg. 5(9):565-574.
  • Haws, L.C., J.A. Tachovsky, E.S. Williams, L.L.F. Scott, D.J. Paustenbach, and M.A. Harris. 2008. Assessment of potential human health risks posed by benzene in beverages. J Food Sci. 73(4):T33-41.
  • Paustenbach, D.J., S.H. Gaffney, P.K. Scott, J.L. Brown, and J.M. Panko. 2007. High background levels of urinary benzene metabolites found in a volunteer study. Commentary. J Occup Environ Hyg. 4(8):71-7.
  • Williams, P.R.D., J.S. Knutsen, C. Atkinson, A.K. Madl, and D.J. Paustenbach. 2007. Airborne concentrations of benzene associated with the historical use of some formulations of Liquid Wrench. J Occup Environ Hyg. 4(8):547-61.
  • Williams, P.R.D., K. Robinson, and D.J. Paustenbach. 2005. Benzene exposures associated with tasks performed on marine vessels (circa 1975 to 2000). J Occup Environ Hyg. 2(11):586-99.
  • Williams, P.R.D and D.J. Paustenbach. 2005. Characterizing historical industrial hygiene data: a case study involving benzene exposures at a chemical manufacturing facility (1976-1987). J Occ Environ Hyg. 2(7):341-50.
  • Williams, P.R. and D.J. Paustenbach. 2003. Reconstruction of benzene exposure for the Pliofilm cohort (1936 – 1976) using Monte Carlo techniques. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 66(8):677-781.
  • Madl, A.K. and D.J. Paustenbach. 2002. Airborne concentrations of benzene and mineral spirits (Stoddard solvent) during cleaning of a locomotive generator and traction motor. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 65(23):1965-79.
  • Madl, A.K. and D.J. Paustenbach. 2002. Airborne concentration of benzene due to diesel locomotive exhaust in a roundhouse. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 65(23):1945-64.
  • Paustenbach, D.J., R.D. Bass, and P. Price. 1993. Benzene toxicity and risk assessment, 1972-1992: implications for future regulation. Environ Health Perspec. 101(6):177-200.
  • Paustenbach, D.J., P.E. Price, W. Ollison, C. Blank, J.D. Jernigan, R.D. Bass, and D. Peterson. 1992. Re-evaluation of benzene exposure for the Pliofilm (rubberworker) cohort (1936-1976). J Toxicol Environ Health. 36(3):177-231.

 

Book Chapters

  • D.J. Paustenbach. 1995. Acute and chronic exposure to benzene: Effects in humans. In: Imbriani, M., S. Ghitori, G. Pezzagno, and E. Capodaglio (eds.), Advances in Occupational Medicine and Rehabilitation, Vol 1, No. 2. Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri Edizioni, Pavia, Italy, pp. 69-91.