Legionella Poses Risk for Patients in Health Care Facilities

The CDC released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)(www.cdc.gov)  and an accompanying Vital Signs report on June 6 that analyzed the prevalence of Legionnaires’ disease in the U.S. health care system and found that 76 percent of facilities studied reported health care-associated cases of the disease.

[Microscopic view of Legionella pneumophila]

Seventy-two health care facilities in 16 of the 21 U.S. jurisdictions the CDC studied reported definite health care-related cases of Legionnaires’ disease, which is known to kill one-quarter of patients who are infected.

Legionnaires disease is a severe pneumonia typically acquired through inhalation of aerosolized water containing Legionella bacteria. Legionella can grow in the complex water systems that supply many buildings, including health care facilities, when those systems are not well managed. Thus, effective water management programs could prevent the growth of Legionella in these building water systems.

Most healthy patients who are exposed to Legionella don’t develop Legionnaires’ disease. Some patients, however, are at increased risk for the disease, including those 50 or older and those who have certain risk factors, such as being a current or former smoker or having a chronic disease or weakened immune system.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The CDC recently released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and an accompanying Vital Signs report that analyzed the prevalence of Legionnaires’ disease in the U.S. health care system, finding that 76 percent of the facilities evaluated reported health care-associated cases of the disease.
  • Specifically, 72 health care facilities in U.S. jurisdictions the CDC studied reported definite health care-related cases of Legionnaires’ disease, which is known to kill one-quarter of patients who are infected.
  • Patients at increased risk for Legionnaire’s disease include those who are 50 or older and those who have certain risk factors, such as being a current or former smoker or having a chronic disease or weakened immune system.

Legionnaires’ disease in hospitals is widespread, deadly and preventable,” said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., in a June 6 news release.(www.cdc.gov) “These data are especially important for health care facility leaders, doctors and facility managers because it reminds them to think about the risks of Legionella in their facility and to take action.

“Controlling these bacteria in water systems can be challenging, but it is essential to protect patients.”

Study Methodology

All 50 states, two large U.S. metropolitan areas and five territories report basic demographic information to the CDC’s National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) for all cases of legionellosis, which manifests as one of two distinct clinical presentations: Pontiac fever (a mild influenza-like illness) and Legionnaires’ disease. NNDSS makes no distinction between the two presentations.

In 2015, a total of 6,079 cases of legionellosis were reported to NNDSS, although the CDC noted that this estimate may be low due to underdiagnosis. The Supplemental Legionnaires’ Disease Surveillance System (SLDSS) receives additional epidemiologic information, including whether patients were exposed to health care facilities, and distinguishes Legionnaires’ disease from Pontiac fever, but reporting to SLDSS is less widespread.

The MMWR analysis aimed to define which Legionnaires’ cases were associated specifically with health care facilities using data from the 21 U.S. jurisdictions. Definite health care-associated disease was defined as including hospitalization or long-term care facility residence for 10 days preceding symptom onset; possible health care-associated disease was defined as including any exposure to a health care facility for a portion of the 10 days preceding symptom onset. All other cases were considered unrelated to health care.

The MMWR analysis aimed to define which Legionnaires’ cases were associated specifically with health care facilities using data from the 21 U.S. jurisdictions. Definite health care-associated disease was defined as including hospitalization or long-term care facility residence for 10 days preceding symptom onset; possible health care-associated disease was defined as including any exposure to a health care facility for a portion of the 10 days preceding symptom onset. All other cases were considered unrelated to health care.

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Study Results

Of the more than 6,000 confirmed legionellosis cases reported to NNDSS in 2015, 3,516 (58 percent) were also reported to SLDSS, including 3,459 Legionnaires’ disease cases. Of those Legionnaires’ disease cases, 2,809 (81 percent) were reported by the 21 jurisdictions included in the MMWR analysis, including 553 (20 percent) that were health care-associated (either definite or possible).

Of the 85 Legionnaires’ disease cases that were determined to be definitely health care-associated, 80 percent were associated with long-term care facilities, 18 percent with hospitals and 2 percent with both.

Definite health care-associated Legionnaires’ disease cases were reported in 72 facilities — 15 hospitals and 57 long-term care facilities — and included one to six cases per facility. Almost 90 percent of these definite cases occurred in patients 60 or older.

Of the 468 possible health care-associated cases, 49 percent were thought to be associated with hospitals, 26 percent with clinics, 13 percent with long-term care facilities, 3 percent with other settings such as outpatient laboratories, and 9 percent with more than one setting.

Importance of Safe Water

The MMWR report’s authors said preventing the first case of Legionnaires’ disease from arising in any health care facility should be the goal, and that is best achieved by establishing and maintaining an effective water management program. To this end, the CDC and its partners have created a best practices guide(www.cdc.gov) for these facilities to use.

In general, the CDC said the principles of effective water management include maintaining water temperatures that are not conducive to Legionella growth; preventing water stagnation; ensuring adequate disinfection; and maintaining equipment to prevent scale, corrosion and biofilm growth, which provide a habitat and nutrients for Legionella.

“Safe water at a health care facility might not be on a physician’s mind, but it’s an essential element of health care quality,” said Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in the agency’s release. “Having a water management program that focuses on keeping facility water safe can help prevent Legionnaires’ disease.”

In related news, CMS released a survey and certification memo(www.cms.gov) on June 2 that requires health care facilities to develop and adhere to policies and procedures to reduce the risk of disseminating Legionella and other waterborne pathogens.

Family Physicians Can Help

According to the CDC, health care professionals play a critical role in preventing and responding to Legionnaires’ disease by rapidly identifying and reporting cases.

Unfortunately, Legionnaires’ disease is clinically indistinguishable from other causes of pneumonia. But failing to diagnose a health care-associated case could result in a missed opportunity to prevent subsequent cases.

Therefore, “Legionella should be considered as a cause of health care-associated pneumonia, especially for groups at increased risk, when other facility-related cases have been identified, or when changes in water parameters might lead to increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease,” the MMWR report advised.

The preferred diagnostic procedure for Legionnaires’ disease is to concurrently obtain a lower respiratory sputum sample for culture and perform a Legionella urinary antigen test.

The CDC said ideally, sputum should be obtained before antibiotics are administered and shouldn’t be rejected based on specimen quality (e.g., lack of polymorphonuclear leukocytes or contamination with other bacteria), because sputa produced by patients with Legionnaires’ disease might not be purulent, and contaminating bacteria will not negatively affect isolation of Legionella on selective media.

“This report demonstrates that Legionnaires’ disease continues to result from exposures to health care facility water systems,” said the MMWR report. “The high case fatality rate of health care-associated Legionnaires’ disease underscores the need for effective prevention and response programs.

“Implementation and maintenance of water management programs, combined with rapid case identification and investigation, could reduce the number of health care-associated Legionnaires’ disease cases.”

Article Source:http://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20170615mmwrlegionella.html

OSHA DELAYS SILICA STANDARD ENFORCEMENT DEADLINE 3 MONTHS

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a delay in enforcement of the crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers.

OSHA has determined that additional guidance is necessary due to the unique nature of the requirements in the construction standard. Originally scheduled to begin June 23, 2017, enforcement will now begin Sept. 23, 2017.

However, despite the standard’s delay, OSHA expects construction employers to continue to take steps either to come into compliance with the new permissible exposure limit, or to implement specific dust controls for certain operations as provided in Table 1 of the standard.

OSHA’s final rule to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica includes these key provisions:

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
  • Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
  • Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
  • Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.

Construction employers should also continue to prepare to implement the standard’s other requirements, including exposure assessment, medical surveillance and employee training.

OSHA estimates 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing are affected by the final rule.

See also: OSHA’s Crystalline Silica website for working safely with silica and how to prevent its non-curable health effects.

Article Source: https://www.constructionequipment.com/osha-delays-silica-standard-enforcement-deadline-3-months

Invasive Mold can cause aspergillosis

inhaling mold spores and mold in my homeEarly diagnosis, effective therapy vital for treatment of deadly invasive mold

New guidelines focus on new treatments, early diagnosis of fungal infection

The updated guidelines focus on the diagnosis and treatment of the major forms of aspergillosis: allergic, chronic and invasive, the latter which kills 40 percent to 80 percent of those with widespread infection. An airborne invasive mold, aspergillus often is found in air conditioning units, compost piles and damp or flood-damaged homes or buildings. While generally harmless, it can cause an allergic reaction or chronic lung problems in some people and serious, invasive disease in vulnerable patients. Those at highest risk are people whose immune systems are suppressed, such as those undergoing stem cell and lung and other organ transplants. The infection also can affect those with severe influenza or who are on long-term steroids, or patients in the intensive care unit. “Invasive mold (aspergillosis) often is overlooked, but early diagnosis and treatment are key,” said Thomas Patterson, MD, lead author of the guidelines and chief of the Division of Infectious Disease and professor of medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and South Texas Veterans Health Care System, San Antonio. “These are complicated infections with a number of treatment options. Patients really benefit from a multidisciplinary approach, including the expertise of an infectious disease specialist.” Updating the 2008 guidelines, the new guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of aspergillosis highlight the increased evidence for antifungal therapy recommendations as well as diagnostic tests. The improved use of diagnostic tools has enhanced the ability to identify the infection early, the guidelines note. These include blood tests, cultures and computed tomography (CT) imaging. Because some of the methods are invasive — such as taking a culture directly from the lungs — physicians often are reluctant to proceed. Because the infection is so deadly, physicians should be aggressive in diagnosing patients suspected of having the infection, Dr. Patterson notes. Additionally, new more-effective and better-tolerated antifungal medications, or versions of existing medications (e.g. extended release) have improved care, including isavuconazole and posaconazole. In some cases, combination therapy with voriconazole and an echinocandin is recommended for certain patients at highest risk. Because invasive molds like aspergillis are s so deadly, the guidelines recommend some patients at highest risk be treated with antifungals to prevent infection, including those with neutropenia and graft versus host disease (GVHD). Another prevention strategy is the use of special filtration systems for hospitalized immunosuppressed patients. Invasive aspergillosis affects about 200,000 people worldwide, Dr. Patterson said. The allergic form is most common and affects more than 4 million people worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those with asthma and cystic fibrosis are at highest risk of developing allergic aspergillosis. The other major form is chronic pulmonary aspergillosis, which can affect healthy people, and occurs in about 400,000 people worldwide, the CDC notes. While requiring treatment, the allergic and chronic forms of aspergillosis typically aren’t deadly. AT A GLANCEinvasive mold cause respiratory problems

  • A deadly fungal infection, invasive aspergillosis should be diagnosed early to improve care, according to new guidelines from IDSA. New and improved therapies are expanding treatment options.
  • Immunocompromised patients are at highest risk for invasive aspergillosis. The mortality rate in those patients is 40 percent or higher.
  • Aspergillus is a mold that is in the air we breathe, particularly in air conditioning units and flood-damaged areas.
  • In addition to the invasive form, aspergillus can cause chronic and allergic forms of disease.

https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/aspergillosis/ https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/aspergillosis/

Students Learn about Indoor Air Quality

Months of reviewing ideas and conducting research on indoor air quality culminated April 20 with a Clean Air and Healthy Homes Program (CAHHP) symposium at Lathrop High School. Everyone walked away with a greater understanding of the dangers of dirty air. Fifty students, working alone or in teams, presented the results of their research to classmates and a panel of judges. They examined everything from pet dander to air fresheners to particulate matter in creative and innovative ways. The program, supported by the American Lung Association in Alaska, began last fall with science teacher training by a program curriculum author and researcher from the University of Montana Center for Environmental Health Sciences. CAHHP strives to incorporate rigorous environmental health content into K-12 science to expand Science, Technology, Engineering and Math learning and support teachers by facilitating student research and providing all the necessary equipment to make it happen. LHS science teacher Renee Parsley said, “Students were required to do the project for a grade but the goal of the project was always for students to design and present a scientific project by gathering local data which addresses a concern in our community from exposure to particulate matter, carbon monoxide or radon.” The projects gave students exposure to air quality components and measurements and increased their awareness about air quality and how it impacts health, Parsley said. Students learned basic information about radon, carbon monoxide and particulate matter and will be able to build on these projects in the future in science and statistics classes. Octavia Harris, American Lung Association in Alaska Fairbanks manager, said, “The air quality in Fairbanks is a problem. This is seen in the recently released American Lung Association State of the Air 2016 report. We also have recorded high radon deposits in our community. Providing youth the opportunity to learn more about PM 2.5, radon and carbon monoxide by conducting STEM-based research provides an understanding of how air quality affects human health. “The science and health education is what matters,” Harris said. “Children, the elderly and those with chronic diseases including lung diseases are severely impacted. Even people without chronic illnesses are impacted. Early education about these topics can potentially improve our knowledge and the air quality in the community. When you can’t breathe nothing else matters.” Harris hopes that students who participated now have a greater understanding of the science of PM 2.5, radon and carbon monoxide and the related health effects, especially the respiratory health effects. “Maybe some of the students will have a desire to pursue medical and health careers and make Fairbanks the home for their career,” Harris said. “The students took the topics and the presentations seriously as apparent by their presentations. “Our great hope is that the Clean Air and Healthy Homes Program could continue at Lathrop and expand to have students at other schools in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District participate in conducting projects and presenting their findings.” “We will do this again next year and hope to have more equipment and time to gather and analyze data,” Parsley said. “This year was an opportunity to increase awareness and grow.” This column was provided to the News-Miner by the American Lung Association, which partnered with students for CAHHP.

PCBs in our Malibu Schools

MALIBU, Calif. | PCBs The high school here is ranked among the best in the country, with students each year moving on to Ivy League colleges. The location, on a hill down the block from the beach where “Baywatch” was filmed, offers a multimillion-dollar view of the Pacific Ocean.

Yet parents here have been yanking their children out of Malibu High School, concerned about PCBs, the highly toxic chemical compounds, that have been found in caulking of the school’s windows.

A battle over how to handle the PCBs, which were first discovered three years ago, is now convulsing this famously wealthy beach community, with parents, television stars and a supermodel pitted against one of the most elite public school districts in the country.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District insists that its classrooms are safe; the Environmental Protection Agency agrees.PCBs in Malibu School Buildings

But not all parents and teachers are convinced: They blame PCBs for an array of maladies, including migraines, thyroid cancer and common colds, and they have sued to compel the district to remove all contaminated caulking. A judge ruled last week that the lawsuit could move forward.

In the meantime, school board meetings have turned chaotic, with parents shouting down district officials and calling them liars.

“The school district is telling us our kids are safe, but that’s what they were telling parents in Flint, Mich.,” said Jennifer deNicola, a mother of an eighth grader and a 10th grader who has spearheaded the push to remove PCBs. “We know there’s a problem, and they refuse to acknowledge it.”

But school and health officials insist that simply because PCBs are in the building materials does not mean the students are at risk of exposure. The school district tests the air in classrooms — the primary medium through which children could be exposed — and cleans regularly to reduce dust from the caulking, school officials said.

“Just because something is present doesn’t mean it can cause harm,” said Doug Daugherty, a managing principal at Ramboll Environ, the environmental consulting firm the district has hired.

The district has already spent millions of dollars on lawyers, environmental consultants and a public-relations campaign.

But, this being Malibu, parents have waged their own media campaign, complete with environmental experts and celebrity advocates. Cindy Crawford, the supermodel, has gone on national television to explain why she pulled her two children from Malibu High, and offered to pay to test caulking for PCBs throughout the campus, which also includes an elementary school and a middle school. (Her offer was declined.)

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were widely used in building materials and electronics until they were banned in the late 1970s, and they remain in many older buildings. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health estimated that the substances could be present in upward of 20,000 schools nationwide. The compounds have been linked to cancer, immune problems and lower I.Q.s among children.

Federal law requires that any building materials found to contain PCBs be removed. But to the chagrin of parents here, there was no requirement to test the caulking in the first place.
Photo
Jennifer deNicola, a mother of two who has spearheaded the push to have PCBs removed, with her daughter Sami, 13, whom she is now home-schooling. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

The E.P.A. has endorsed the district’s approach to handling the PCBs in its buildings. And scientists who studied PCBs in New York City schools said this method — of testing air quality and cleaning assiduously — was very effective.

Laurie Lieberman, the president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified school board, said the administration had confidence in the safety of its facilities and has been doing its best to reassure parents.

“We have tremendous empathy for people who are fearful and scared,” Ms. Lieberman said. “We’ve really tried to explain why the schools are safe now.”

Malibu parents have a history of skepticism about official health advice, including routine childhood vaccinations: At some local elementary schools in 2014, fewer than 60 percent of kindergarten students had received the full lineup of recommended vaccines, far below the state average.

In this case, the distrust on both sides became plain last fall, when supporters of caulking removal secretly took their own samples from classrooms and had them independently tested. Ms. deNicola announced that the results showed extraordinarily high levels of PCBs. The school district asked the sheriff’s office to investigate her for trespassing and vandalism.

The battle now threatens to tear apart the school district: Concern over PCBs has fueled an existing effort here to break away from Santa Monica so that Malibu can be in control of its own schools.

Beth Lucas, a parent, pulled her son, Christian, out of Malibu High after their endocrinologist said it was especially dangerous for him to remain there. Christian, now 17, had a malignant brain tumor at age 6, and the radiation used to treat it left him with a diminished immune system and thus more vulnerable to the effects of PCBs, the doctor told the family.

“We moved to Malibu for the schools, so it has been a big slap in the face to have the school district treat the parents and teachers and children so poorly,” Ms. Lucas said. She is also considering removing her daughter, who is in middle school, at the end of the year, but worried about the cost of private school.

“Yes, we live in this nice house,” she said, sitting on a hilltop porch that overlooked a wide expanse of ocean. “I don’t want to have to sell my house and leave Malibu. The district has put us in a horrible position.”

Currently, only one of the seven school board members represents Malibu. He supports replacing the caulking, but has been voted down by board members who live in Santa Monica.

“I think the board members have convinced themselves that the science is right and the parents are overreacting,” said Craig Foster, Malibu’s representative on the school board, and the father of a seventh grader at the middle school here. “But what if in five years it turns out testing the air and dust wasn’t enough? How do you sleep?”

Some other school districts across the country have acted more aggressively, often at the E.P.A.’s behest, to remove the source of PCBs. Parents here point to Clark Elementary School in Hartford as an example of a school district that handled matters responsibly: In that case, an entire school building was closed — and may be abandoned — because of PCB contamination.

But testing at Clark Elementary indicated elevated levels of PCBs in the air, whereas testing at Malibu High has not, E.P.A. officials said.

Jim Jones, an assistant administrator at the E.P.A., said the agency worked with schools to “get below the risk threshold using the best management practices.”

“We’re always trying to find what’s a cheaper way,” Mr. Jones said, adding that the caulking at Malibu High would all be replaced within several years as part of planned renovations. For now, he said, cleaning and ventilation are “far less costly than removal.”

Read more about PCBs > >

Santa Monica – Malibu Union School District

Nytimes.com

Porter Ranch Natural Gas Leak

Porter Ranch Natural Gas Leak

Since the well began leaking Oct. 23, thousands of people in the Porter Ranch area say they have suffered headaches, nosebleeds, nausea and other symptoms from the escaping gas. The smell comes from an additive called mercaptan that is used to warn people of leaking natural gas, which is ordinarily odorless.

Southern California Gas Co. is paying to relocate those who say they are being sickened.

 

On Oct. 23, gas company employees noticed a leak out of the ground near a well called SS-25. It was late afternoon, so they decided to come back in the morning to fix it.

The next day, however, their efforts were unsuccessful. Gas was now billowing downhill into Porter Ranch, an upscale community on the northern edge of the San Fernando Valley. Customers were beginning to complain about the smell.

Gas leaks are not uncommon, and it took a couple weeks for this one to become news. When Anderle heard about it, in early November, she pulled up the well record on a state website. The file dates back to when the well was drilled in 1953. As she looked it over, she zeroed in on a piece of equipment 8,451 feet underground called a sub-surface safety valve.

If it were working properly, the gas company would be able to shut down the well. The fact that SoCalGas hadn’t meant, to her, that it must be broken. The records indicated that it had not been inspected since 1976.

 

SS-25 was cemented only from the bottom up to a depth of 6,600 feet. The rest — more than a mile of steel pipe — was left exposed to the rock formation. At the top, the 7-inch casing is surrounded by an 11¾-inch surface casing, which is cemented to the rock. But a new well also would have a layer of cement between those casings to provide greater strength and protection from corrosion.

Gas is now leaking through a hole in the 7-inch casing at 470 feet down to the bottom of the outer casing at 990 feet, and out through the rock to the surface.

The corporate culture of SoCalGas is nothing if not deliberate. And so, in 2014, the company proposed a methodical effort to check each well for corrosion. It would take about seven years and cost tens of millions of dollars. The plan was part of a request to the Public Utilities Commission to increase customers’ monthly gas bills by 5.5 percent. The alternative was to fix leaks only as they occurred, which one executive warned could be dangerous and lead to “major situational or media incidents.”

The SoCalGas plan went well beyond the requirements imposed by the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermic Resources, or DOGGR. Steve Bohlen, the outgoing head of DOGGR, has said several times that it does not appear that Southern California Gas violated any regulations.

 

Gas has now been spewing out of the ground at Aliso Canyon for two months. The gas company expects it to continue for up to another three months. Methane is a potent contributor to climate change. By one estimate, the leak is producing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the tailpipes of 2.3 million cars.

The Aliso Canyon leak has increased the state’s methane emissions by 21 percent. As of now, 2.3 percent of the state’s entire carbon footprint is coming from one hole in the ground above Porter Ranch.

“This is an environmental disaster,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti, who stopped by Porter Ranch Community School in November, just before flying to Paris for the United Nations climate change conference. “It’s devastating. It makes you question the long-term sustainability of a carbon-based power system.”

The local impact also has been severe. About 30,000 people live in Porter Ranch, a bedroom community of gated developments with 4,000-square-foot homes that sell for $1 million or more. The neighborhood offers good schools, clean air and a sense of security. All of that has been disrupted. Many residents have experienced headaches, nosebleeds, nausea or other symptoms. Some 2,000 families have been moved to hotels or short-term rentals to escape the gas.

 

Mercaptan

is also known as methanethiol and is a harmless but pungent-smelling gas which has been described as having the stench of rotting cabbages or smelly socks.

It is often added to natural gas, which is colourless and odourless, to make it easier to detect.

The gas is an organic substance, made of carbon, hydrogen and sulphur, and is found naturally in living organisms, including the human body where it is a waste product of normal metabolism. It is one of the chemicals responsible for the foul smell of bad breath and flatulence.

People who have eaten asparagus can experience the distinctive smell of mercaptan in their urine within 30 minutes of consuming the vegetable, which contains substances that are quickly broken down to methanethiol. However, not everyone is able to smell mercaptan in their urine as a genetic mutation in some people means they are immune to the odour.

The great advantage of mercaptan for industrial purposes is that it can be detected by most people in extremely small quantities, less than one part per million. This makes it an ideal additive to odourless gases, and, like natural gas, it is flammable.

 

 

What benzene is

  • Benzene is a chemical that is a colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odor and is highly flammable.
  • Benzene evaporates into the air very quickly. Its vapor is heavier than air and may sink into low-lying areas.
  • Benzene dissolves only slightly in water and will float on top of water.

Where benzene is found and how it is used

  • Benzene is formed from both natural processes and human activities.
  • Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.
  • Benzene is widely used in the United States. It ranks in the top 20 chemicals for production volume.
  • Some industries use benzene to make other chemicals that are used to make plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers. Benzene is also used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.

How you could be exposed to benzene

  • Outdoor air contains low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, gas stations, motor vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions.
  • Indoor air generally contains levels of benzene higher than those in outdoor air. The benzene in indoor air comes from products that contain benzene such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents.
  • The air around hazardous waste sites or gas stations can contain higher levels of benzene than in other areas.
  • Benzene leaks from underground storage tanks or from hazardous waste sites containing benzene can contaminate well water.
  • People working in industries that make or use benzene may be exposed to the highest levels of it.
  • A major source of benzene exposure is tobacco smoke.

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