Uses of Benzene
Uses of benzene are typically associated with the production of other chemicals. In addition to its use as an industrial solvent and additive in gasoline, benzene and benzene derivatives have been used in a variety of products, some of which include: pesticides, detergents, dyes, lubricants, rubbers, drugs and explosives.
The use of benzene has been regulated in order to protect the public from dangerous levels of exposure to the toxic substance. Prolonged benzene exposure has been linked with the development of a number of serious diseases, some of which include acute myelogenous leukemia (acute myeloid leukemia - AML), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and aplastic anemia. In addition, benzene exposure during pregnancy has been shown to increase the risk of various types of birth injury, such as acute childhood leukemia. Many of the best benzene personal injury attorneys also specialize in family law in order to provide effective representation in cases whereby benzene-caused health conditions have rendered parents unable to care for their children.
Uses of Benzene Prior to Regulation
Since benzene was discovered in 1825, it has been used for a variety of industrial and commercial purposes. One of the earliest uses of benzene was as an aftershave because of the chemical's distinctively pleasant odor; this prior to knowledge of the health hazards related to the transdermal absorption of benzene. Benzene and other solvents can still be found in trace amounts in a number of personal care products, notably perfume.
Benzene was often used in an industrial setting because of its ability to act as a degreaser for metals. The solvent proved to be effective in cleaning the machine parts that were routinely dirtied as a result of normal ware-and-tear.
One of the stranger early uses of benzene was to decaffeinate coffee. A German by the name of Lugwig Roselius was responsible for using benzene in this manner, prompting the establishment of one of the world's first brands of decaffeinated coffee, Sanka. First marketed under the name "Kaffee HAG," Sanka would become a highly popular coffee brand throughout Europe and the United States (even today). However, after the health hazards associated with benzene became well known, its use was replaced as an additive in the coffee brand by safer alternatives.
One of the more common uses of benzene prior to widespread knowledge of its serious health effects was as an anti-knocking additive in gasoline. The use of benzene in gasoline proved effective in increasing its octane rating, limiting the amount of "knocking" that was a common occurrence within the engines of most early automobiles.
Post-Regulation Uses of Benzene
Even though benzene has been acknowledged as an extremely toxic chemical compound capable of eliciting a great many negative health effects, it has not been banned outright. It is still used throughout a variety of commercial and industrial products; however, the benzene content of such products is strictly regulated by several governmental entities, notably the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
The use of benzene as an additive in gasoline tapered off in 1950s when it was replaced by a more effective anti-knocking agent known as tetraethyl lead. However, leaded gasoline has itself been the source of environmental controversy, recently leading to a slight resurgence in the use of benzene. Within the United States, the benzene content of gasoline is strictly regulated at about 1%.
Today, the most common uses of benzene revolve around the development of other chemicals. Benzene is an integral component in the production of polymers, plastics, resins, adhesives, nylon, detergents, dyes, lubricants, explosives and pesticides. Most of the aforementioned materials are produced from three commonly used benzene derivatives: styrene, phenol and cyclohexane.
Benzene can be found in a number of products developed by some of the largest companies in the world, some of which include:
- Cadbury Schweppes
- Kraft Foods
- Polar Beverages
Some of the largest producers of benzene in the United States include:
- Shell Chemical
- Dow Chemical
Benzene Products, Benzene Exposure and Employer Liability
Even though benzene products that remain in production have their benzene-content regulated, employees working with the toxic solvent remain at risk of developing a serious disease as a result of overexposure. Employers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their employees by limiting any benzene exposure. Failure to do so is deemed negligent and grounds for legal action. A number of benzene lawsuits have targeted such employers whose negligence has led to employee injury and death.
Those who have developed a serious condition as a result of benzene exposure are advised to contact a benzene injury attorney to get information about eligibility for compensation.