Benzene Exposure Results in Evacuation at St. Joseph’s University

According to a news report from a local CBS station in Pennsylvania, a chemical spill in a lab at St. Joseph’s University has resulted in benzene exposure and has forced evacuations. Exposure to benzene, a known carcinogen, has been linked to leukemia and several other health problems. Given this danger, officials have forced the evacuation of the dozens of people who may be in danger of the risk of exposure.

The spill happened inside a lab at St. Joseph’s University science center around 12:30pm in early July.  Fire officials have reported that inhalation or contact with this substance can be toxic. In order to assist anyone who may have risked benzene exposure, a decontamination corridor was set up near the spill site so they could rinse off. One person was being seriously treated for benzene exposure and dozens others were evacuated.

Dangers of Benzene
It is well known that benzene is dangerous but it is not well known why it is dangerous. Benzene is a known carcinogen that causes acute myoloid leukemia (AML), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), multiple myeloma and aplastic anemia. Even with all of the harmful effects, it remains to be used in a multitude of products. In cases of exposure, it rare to find the situation handled as described earlier.

Why Use Benzene Given Its Risks?
Despite its many dangers and risks, benzene remains a highly used and useful chemical for a variety of reasons. Benzene has been used over the last two centuries as a solvent for various commercial, industrial, and consumer applications and is found in many commercial and consumer products. In the United States, it is one of the top twenty most produced chemicals. It is used for a number of petrochemical intermediates including many of the plastics we use in everyday products.

There have not been many details released about the incident at the St. Joseph’s University science lab. It is likely that researchers were exploring some of the uses and applications of this dangerous chemical. It is a comfort that everyone involved was able to receive immediate attention and we hope the one case of serious exposure will not result in any serious health problems.

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