What is Benzene?
Benzene is a chemical compound which exists in the liquid state. The credit of isolation of the compound goes to Michael Faraday. The word benzene is derived from the word ‘Benjamin’ which means gum resin.
It is colorless and possesses a sweet smell. Benzene is known to catch fire easily. Carbon and Hydrogen are the components of benzene. Natural processes (forest fires and volcanoes) give rise to this aromatic compound. Benzene is the main ingredient of Cigarette Smoke. The structure of benzene was studied extensively using X-ray diffraction.
As benzene has a sweet smell, during the ancient times it was used as an after shave lotion. But today benzene serves as an intermediate to the synthesis of many chemicals. It is also used to synthesize styrene, cumene, cyclohexane etc .At present Benzene is mainly made from petroleum. Benzene is one of the most widely used chemical in the world. Benzene is also used in experimentations in the laboratory.
Benzene can cause a number of health hazards. Continuous exposure to benzene can cause leukemia or blood cancer. Burning of coal, waste discharged from factories and industries, exhaust of motor vehicles, gasoline industries etc account for the increasing level of benzene in the air. Lab technicians and steel workers suffer the most from the ill effects of benzene. It can also damage the functioning of the nervous system. Benzene can even alter the DNA and bring about chromosomal changes
Intake of foods and drinks which contain high levels of benzene causes vomiting, dizziness and nausea. Some cases of benzene intake can lead to dangerous conditions as coma and death. It can also cause harm to the female reproductive organs. Studies are being conducted on the effect on benzene on the developing fetus in pregnant women. When the studies were carried out on animals it showed damaged bone marrow and reduced weight in the fetus.