Benzene is a clear, liquid, petroleum-based chemical that has a sweet smell. Benzene poisoning occurs when someone swallows, breathes in, or touches benzene.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
People may be exposed to benzene in factories, refineries, and other industrial settings. Benzene may be found in:
- Additives to gasoline and diesel fuel
- Many industrial solvents
- Various paint,
lacquer, and varnishremovers
Note: This list may not include all sources of benzene.
- Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
- Burning sensation in the nose and throat
Loss of appetite Nausea Vomiting
- Heart and blood
- Rapid heartbeat
- Lungs and chest
Rapid, shallow breathing Tight chest
- Nervous system
- Euphoria (feeling of being drunk)
Paleskin Small red dotson skin
Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.
If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water or milk if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.
Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:
- Patient’s age, weight, and condition
- Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
- Time it was swallowed
- Amount swallowed
Poison Control, or a local emergency number
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What to expect at the emergency room
The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:
Endoscopy — camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
Fluids by IV
Medicines to treat an allergic reaction (diphenhydramine, prednisone)
Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (
Washing of the skin (irrigation) — perhaps every few hours for several days
You may be admitted to the hospital if the poisoning is severe.
How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Benzene is very poisonous. Poisoning can cause rapid death. However, deaths have occurred as late as 3 days after the poisoning. This happens because:
Permanent brain damage occurs
The heart stops (cardiac arrest)
The lungs stop working (respiratory arrest)
People who have regular exposure to low levels of benzene can also become sick. The most common problems are blood diseases, including:
People who work with benzene products should only do so in areas with good air flow. They should also use protective gloves and eye glasses.