The Refinery MAKES these chemicals

Bureau of
Environmental Health
Health Assessment Section
“To protect and improve the health of all Ohioans”
Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylenes
What is BTEX?
BTEX is not one chemical, but are a group of the following
chemical compounds:
Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylenes.
BTEX are made up of naturally-occurring chemicals that are
found mainly in petroleum products such as gasoline.
Refineries will change the amounts of these chemical
compounds to meet vapor pressure and octane standards
for gasoline. Besides gasoline, BTEX can be found in many
of the common household products we use every day.
BTEX Breakdown
Benzene 11%
Toluene 26%
Xylene 52%
What are some products that contain
Benzene can be found in gasoline and in products such as
synthetic rubber, plastics, nylon, insecticides, paints, dyes,
resins-glues, furniture wax, detergents and cosmetics.
Benzene can also be found in cigarette smoke. Auto exhaust
and industrial emissions account for about 20% of the total
nationwide exposure to benzene. About 50% of the entire
nationwide exposure to benzene results from smoking
tobacco or from exposure to tobacco smoke.
Toluene occurs naturally as a component of many petroleum
products. Toluene is used as a solvent for paints, coatings,
gums, oils and resins.
Ethylbenzene is used mostly as a gasoline and aviation fuel
additive. It may also be present in consumer products such
as paints, inks, plastics and pesticides.
There are three forms of Xylene: ortho-, meta-, and para-.
Ortho-xylene is the only naturally-occurring form of xylene;
the other two forms are man-made. Xylenes are used in
gasoline and as a solvent in printing, rubber and leather
BTEX are in a class of chemicals known as volatile organic
compounds (VOCs). VOC chemicals easily vaporize or
change from a liquid to a vapor (gas). The VOC vapors can
travel through the air and/or move through contaminated
groundwater and soils as vapors, possibly impacting indoor
air quality in nearby homes or businesses.
Where do you find BTEX?
Most people are exposed to small amounts of BTEX
compounds in the ambient (outdoor) air, at work and
in the home. Most everyone is exposed to low levels
of these chemicals in their everyday activities. People
who live in urban areas (cities) or by major roads and
highways will likely be exposed to more BTEX than
someone who lives in a rural setting.
Besides common everyday
exposures, larger amounts of BTEX
can enter the environment from
leaks from underground storage
tanks, overfills of storage tanks,
fuel spills and landfills. BTEX
compounds easily move through
soils and can make their way into
the groundwater, contaminating public and private
water systems and the soils in between.
Can exposure to BTEX make you
Yes, you can get sick from exposure to BTEX. But
getting sick will depend on:
􀂾 􀂾 How much you were exposed to (dose).
􀂾 􀂾 How long you were exposed (duration).
􀂾 􀂾 How often you were exposed (frequency).
􀂾 􀂾 General Health, Age, Lifestyle
Young children, the elderly and people with
chronic (on-going) health problems are more
at risk to chemical exposures.
How are you exposed to BTEX?
Exposure can occur by either drinking contaminated
water (ingestion), by breathing contaminated air from
pumping gas or from the water via showering or
laundering (inhalation) or from spills on your skin
How does BTEX affect health?
Acute (short-term) exposure to gasoline and its
components benzene, toluene and xylenes has been
associated with skin and sensory irritation, central
nervous system-CNS problems (tiredness, dizziness,
headache, loss of coordination) and effects on the
respiratory system (eye and nose irritation).
On top of skin, sensory and CNS problems, prolonged
exposure to these compounds can also affect the
kidney, liver and blood systems.
make up
18% of
Do BTEX compounds cause cancer?
In the absence of data on the cancer-causing nature of
the whole mixture (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and
xylenes), possible health hazards from exposures to
BTEX are assessed using an individual component-based
approach of the individual chemicals.
Benzene: According to the U.S. EPA, there is good
evidence to believe that benzene is a known human
carcinogen (causes cancer). Workers exposed to high
levels of benzene in occupational settings were found to
have an increase occurrence of leukemia. The Department
of Health and Human Services (HHS) has determined
that benzene is a known human carcinogen. Long-term
exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can lead to
leukemia and cancers of the blood-forming organs.
Ethylbenzene: According to the International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC), ethylbenzene classified as
a Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on
studies of laboratory animals.
Toluene, and Xylenes have been categorized as not
classifiable as to human carcinogenicity by both EPA (IRIS
2001) and IARC (1999a, 1999b), reflecting the lack of
evidence for the carcinogenicity of these two chemicals.
Is there a medical test to show whether
you have been exposed to BTEX?
Several tests can show if you have been exposed to BTEX.
Components of BTEX can be found in the blood, urine,
breath and some body tissues of exposed people.
However, these tests need to be done within a few hours
after exposure because these substances leave the body
very quickly. The most common way to test for
ethylbenzene is in the urine. However, the urine test may
not be as effective to measures benzene levels.
Note these tests will perhaps show the amount of BTEX
in your body, but they cannot tell you whether you will
have any harmful health problems. They also do not tell
you where the benzene came from.
How can families reduce the risk of
exposure to BTEX?
􀂾 Use adequate ventilation to reduce exposure to
BTEX vapors from consumer products such as
gasoline, pesticides, varnishes, paints, resins-glues
and newly installed carpeting.
􀂾 Household chemicals should be stored out of reach
of children to prevent accidental poisoning. Always
store household chemicals in their original
containers; never store them in containers that
children would find attractive to eat or drink from,
such as old soda bottles. Gasoline should be
stored in a gasoline can with a locked cap.
􀂾 Volatile chemicals should be stored outside the
home if possible – in a separate garage or shed.
􀂾 Don’t smoke indoors with doors and windows
For more information contact:
Ohio Department of Health
Bureau of Environmental Health
Health Assessment Section
246 N. High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Phone: (614) 466-1390
Fax: (614) 466-4556
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
(ATSDR). 1997. Toxicological profile for benzene. U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
(ATSDR). 2007. Toxicological profile for ethylbenzene.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public
Health Service.
Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). 2007.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
(ATSDR). 2004. Interaction Profile for Benzene, Toluene,
Ethylbenzene and Xylene (BTEX). U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.
Revised 02/29/08
The Ohio Department of Health is in
cooperative agreement with the Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
(ATSDR), Public Health Service, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.
This pamphlet was created by the Ohio
Department of Health, Bureau of Environmental
Health, Health Assessment Section and
supported in whole by funds from the
Cooperative Agreement Program grant
from the ATSDR.



Washington Post Staff Writer
By Lyndsey Layton
Thursday, May 6, 2010; 1:46 PM
An expert panel that advises the
president on cancer said Thursday that
Americans are facing “grievous harm”
from chemicals in the air, food and water
that have largely gone unregulated and
The President’s Cancer Panel called for a
new national strategy that focuses on
such threats in the environment and
workplace. It called those dangers
“With the growing body of evidence
linking environmental exposures to
cancer, the public is becoming
increasingly aware of the unacceptable
burden of cancer resulting from
environmental and occupational
exposures that could have been
prevented through appropriate national
action,” the panel wrote in a report
released Thursday.
Currently, federal chemical laws are
weak, funding is inadequate and
regulatory responsibilities are spilt
among too many agencies, the panel
Children are particularly vulnerable
because of their smaller bodies and fast p
hysical development, the panel found.
The report noted rising rates of cancer in
children, and it referred to recent studies
that have found industrial chemicals in
umbilical-cord blood, which supplies
nutrients to developing fetuses. “To a
disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-
polluted,’ ” the panel wrote.
Health officials lack critical knowledge
about the health impact of chemicals on
fetuses and children, the report said.
In addition, the government’s standards
for safe chemical exposure in the
workplace are outdated, it said.
In 2009, about 1.5 million American men,
women and children had cancer
diagnosed, and 562,000 people died from
the disease.
The panel found that the country needs
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to overhaul existing chemical laws, a
conclusion that has been supported by
public health groups, environmental
advocates, the chemical industry and the
Obama administration.
The current system places the burden on
the government to prove beyond a doubt
that a chemical is unsafe before it can
removed from the market. The standards
are so high, the government has been
unable to ban chemicals such as
asbestos, a widely recognized carcinogen
that is prohibited in dozens of countries.
About 80,000 chemicals are in commercial
use in the United States, but federal
regulators have assessed only about 200
for safety.
A bill filed last month by Sen. Frank
Lautenberg (D-N.J.) , the Safe Chemicals
Act of 2010, would shift the burden to
manufacturers to prove the safety of new
chemicals before they can be used. It
would also require companies to give
federal regulators safety data for
chemicals already on the market. The
cancer panel called that bill a good
starting point.
Still, the panel said, when the
government evaluates the safety of a
chemical, it needs to look beyond
individual chemicals to consider the
cumulative effect on humans from
exposure to multiple chemicals, and it
must consider how small amounts of a
chemical can cause subtle changes in the
human body that can result in cancer
years later.
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