Better Hold Your Breath!
No joke it is best to hold your breath while refueling your fossil fuel engine or whenever you can smell Gasoline fumes or Diesel Fumes. An important fact to know is that the odor threshold for the human nose to detect benzene is approximately 60 ppm for odor detection in air, or in water is 2 ppm and so if you can smell it be concerned.
Benzene is a clear, colourless liquid with a characteristic, aromatic hydrocarbon odor and is often described as “that gasoline smell”, that gets on your hands and clothes when you fill up your tank. Make no mistake you should not inhale whenever your exposed to benzene, as it is poisonous and more dangerous to your health than second hand cigarette smoke.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulates levels of benzene in the workplace, because individuals have developed, and died from leukemia after benzene exposure. Long-term exposure may affect bone marrow and blood production, with some studies suggesting that Benzene even at concentrations as little as one part per million have been shown to lower white blood cell count by as much as 15-18 percent!
Short-term exposure to high levels of benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, unconsciousness, and death.
The “official” OSHA Exposure Limits:
Short-term exposure limit (STEL). The employer shall assure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of benzene in excess of five (5) ppm as averaged over any 15 minute period.
Time-weighted average limit (TWA). The employer shall assure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of benzene in excess of one part of benzene per million parts of air (1 ppm) as an 8-hour time-weighted average.
OSHA requires special breathing equipment once workers are likely to be exposed to benzene at levels exceeding those limits.
The good news is that Benzene vapors can now be seen using a infrared FLIR camera, however, as the current retail cost is several thousand USD most people won’t have one with them the next time they stop at a refueling station to actually see what is going on while pumping those few precious gallons of gasoline or diesel fuel.
Before the dangers of Benzine were known to be harmful in the 19th and early-20th centuries, benzene was used as an after-shave lotion because of its aromatic smell. Prior to the 1920s, benzene was also frequently used as an industrial solvent as it was effective for degreasing metal.
Video: News Channel “8 Did You Breathe Your Benzene Today?”
Video: FLIR GasFindIR Camera Shows Gas Pump Fumes
Currently the major sources of benzene exposure are typically: tobacco smoke, automobile service stations, exhaust from motor vehicles, and industrial emissions. However, ingestion and dermal absorption of benzene can also occur through contact with contaminated water.
The EPA sadly only gives this warning:
“Gasoline vapors contribute to bad ozone days and are a source of toxic air pollutants such as benzene”.
What most people don’t seem to yet realize is that if you can smell gas fumes for even a very short period, say while pumping gas you have most likely already well exceeded the OSHA limit in you had been working in that environment.
EV of the Year Judge, independent green journalist, photographer, author and sustainability activist that has published over 1000 articles. Mr Burridge’s travels have taken him to over 30 countries and 300+ major cities. He is originally from the USA, but has been residing in Australia for the last seven years. Connect to Ken Burridge on: Twitter, facebook, Google+, Linked in or website