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605877 tn?1301704246

Stressed - can an exposure to benzene 3 years ago still impact on my health?

3 years ago i was exposed to 99% pure 1-3 dichlorobenzene small amounts and ever since i have suffered from panic attacks and anxiety disorders. this has also led to a phobia of all medicines and an OCD problem. basically my life has changed dramatically and i can't rationalise my thoughts very well.

however in the last two months I have been very tired, and in a lot of pain with my back...diagnosed as inflammed muscles and now diagnosed with costochondritis. also i feel very nauseous.

do these muscle symptoms make you feel sick? or is it possible that I have something else or is it an impact from inhaling pure benzene? are there future issues i might have? is it safe to take medicines if i have been exposed to benzene since its associated with problems with kidneys and livers?

any help would be great as i feel lost.
10 Responses
563773 tn?1374250139

Long tyerm exposure to pure benzene damages the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and depress the immune system, increasing the chance of infection.It can also cause leukemias.

Your symptoms may be due to anemia.Pls confirm it by getting your Hb and serum ferritin levels done.

Other possibilities are fibromyalgia(a disorder classified by the presence of chronic widespread pain and tactile allodynia(pain even on touching)  ,chronic fatigue syndrome(often manifests with widespread myalgia and arthralgia, cognitive difficulties, chronic mental and physical exhaustion)  ,polymyositis (means 'many muscle inflammation') and polymyalgia rheumatica(an inflammatory disorder that causes widespread muscle aching and stiffness)Complete physical examination along with investigations like ESR blood, platelet count Rheumatoid factor, creatine kinase,electromyography and muscle biopsy may be needed to make a diagnosis.Pls consult a physician for that.

Hope it helps.Take care and pls do keep me posted on how you are doing.Good luck.

534785 tn?1329595808
What was your exposure? Did you just inhale fumes, or did you actually ingest some? I know exposure to benzene can lead to neurological problems, which may explain why you're experiencing at least some of the problems that you are...though you were exposed to 1,3-dichlorobenzene, which is a different compound.

1,3-dichlorobenzene isn't pure benzene; it's a halogenated benzene compound (not that having chlorine in it makes it any better). Typically, inhalation of this compound causes coughing, vomiting, drowsiness, sore throat, and nausea. Long-term exposure to this substance (which would occur over several years) tends to affect the liver and kidneys, in addition to severe respiratory disturbances.

Since you were exposed to "small amounts" on three occasions, I highly doubt that the 1,3-dichlorobenzene is causing any significant health issues. Beyond the irritation you experienced at the time of exposure (maybe itchy eyes, coughing, etc.), you should not be experiencing any long-term effects, and you certainly shouldn't be experiencing any neurological symptoms. Chronic exposure to chemical substances like that would eventually cause serious health issues, but that would take years of heavy exposure, which you, fortunately, did not have. It sounds like exposure to this may have aggravated an underlying anxiety disorder, or caused to develop one, which is understandable--this is coming from someone who was exposed to known carcinogens, so I can empathize. I really thought I caused myself some irreparable damage for a week or two after I got a face full of dichloromethane vapor (while wearing contacts, no less), and I felt dizzy, had a horrible headache, and was "out of it" for several hours afterward.

It's safe for you to take medications since you've been exposed to a benzene material. You should not have any adverse affects as a result of this. The benzene you were exposed to has long since left your system and there likely aren't any remains of it--including damage done to your body. The nausea you're feeling may be related to the chest pain you're feeling from the costochondritis. Definitely see if your doctor can recommend a medication(s) for you to begin taking so you can get back on track to feeling better. Benzene was prohibited from being used in industrial processes once it became a known carcinogen, namely because the people who were exposed to it for extended periods of time were developing cancer in alarming amounts--but they were working with benzene for years. For example, some guys I worked with this past summer were telling me how they used to clean the Pilot Plant floors (in a pharmaceutical company industrial factory) with pure benzene...they would just slosh it on the floor and mop it around without so much as wearing face masks or gloves (just goggles), because it was such a great solvent. Now, they use acetone, but they reminisce about how great benzene was and how they miss it (and neither of them have cancer and they're both fairly healthy from what I can see--and in their mid to late 60s).

Take care, and let me know how things go for you.
605877 tn?1301704246
I can't believe you can have had a similar experience to me. it's almost a relief to find that i'm not the only one.

i worked in a trace organics lab so often had to work with acetone rinsing glassware, benzene, toulene, DCM,  carbon tetrachloride but this is the first one, to affect me. the fume cupboard basically didn't suck away the fumes.

i know i'm finding it hard to move on but it was such an alien experience and the chlorine element was so dense that I find it hard to think it hasn't affected me somehow. i guess those warning labels have got to me a bit.

what happened in your case? how did you inhale DCM?

thanks, it really has helped talking to someone who understands.
605877 tn?1301704246
thanks for your suggestions as to what is potentially wrong with me and why i am experiencing such inflammed muscles. is there anything you can do to get rid of these things quicker?
534785 tn?1329595808
Yeah, the one experience I mentioned was just one...I majored in Chemistry at the undergraduate level, so I constantly had exposure to "fun" chemicals, and I've worked in research for quite some time now. This past summer I was routinely working with dichloromethane, carbon tetrachloride, methyl tertiary butyl ether, dimethyl sulfoxide, ethylene dichloride, and the like. The particularly bad incident of getting a "face full" of dichloromethane happened when a chemical reactor, which had been emptied of a reaction solution for some time, was opened and someone asked me to look inside and identify a white compound sticking to the sides of the reactor. Using a flashlight and getting very close to the opening at the top of the reactor, I had to stick my face very close to the opening--but since the reactor had been empty and ventilating for awhile, I assumed there wouldn't be any problem Not so...the minute I leaned near the opening and then took a breath, I got smacked in my eyes, face, nose, and skin with DCM. I could TASTE it; it was very disgusting. My eyes itched for a good 30 minutes afterward (I rinsed them with water immediately for some time), and I felt very light-headed and nauseous for the rest of the day.....almost as though I were high or something. I had a bad headache for 2 weeks after that, accompanied with some dizziness and nausea, but it eventually subsided. Initially, I was a little freaked out that I had caused myself some irreparable damaged by being stupid, but after doing some reading and a lot of talking to people who worked on site and with chemicals like DCM for years, my fears were quelled.

I've dealt with a plenty of compounds containing benzene in them, too, when developing compounds in the lab, but the big problem would be if I started using benzene as a solvent--being exposed to it in large quantities. That's what's no longer allowed, thank goodness!

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one out there worried about the effects of potent chemicals, and I hope I was able to help you conquer at least some of your benzene worries. =)

I'll do some reading on inflamed muscles, because the ones you're dealing with are a little different than the problems I'd normally be able to advise (like the inflamed joints/muscles I'm currently experiencing). I'll let you know what I come up with, though.
605877 tn?1301704246
awh you're so lovely for doing some research for me thank you so much.

i really do feel a bit easier for hearing what you've had to say. i think i've bottled it up for so long and haven't been able to find many answers for myself, other than the material data safety sheets.

my background is more biology based but i had worked in labs previous including dropping acid on my legs etc to no psycholgical response but i think its like you say, the taste of the chlorine element being inhaled, was so alien. i was working with all the previous chemicals for about six months. but unfortunately after 3 months i could no longer work with the chemicals. the odour they gave off even after being in the freezer just made me have panic attacks.

some people have told me that i should treat my liver and kidneys like that of a 12 year because of the benzene part. what do you think?


534785 tn?1329595808
Yeah, it sounds like the chemicals you worked with won the fight with the chemicals in your brain--at least for a little while.

Costochondritis typically affects people in their 20s - 40s, and while its cause is unknown, it is believed to be accompanied by a viral infection or an upper respiratory infection. I guessed that NSAIDs are the medicine of choice for treating it, and I was right...this would include over-the-counter drugs like Motrin and Advil, or prescription drugs like Arthrotec and Meloxicam. Otherwise, for reducing the pain and inflammation, ice packs/heating pads can be used, and plenty of bed rest is advised. Do you have any other symptoms accompanying this inflammation/pain? It really sounds like it may just be something viral, but it could take awhile to get over it.

I hope you feel better soon! If you see your doctor anytime soon, ask him/her what NSAID would be best for relieving the pain you're in and reducing the inflammation you're experiencing in particular areas.
534785 tn?1329595808
Oh, sorry for forgetting this part...what did you mean by, "some people have told me that i should treat my liver and kidneys like that of a 12 year because of the benzene part." Were those people saying that your liver and kidneys were underdeveloped, or so clogged with chemicals that they're in a delicate state? Were any of them doctors? I don't think your exposure was anywhere near significant enough to even warrant consideration of any kind of permanent damage...and certainly not anything noticeable enough for your kidneys or liver.
605877 tn?1301704246
the doctor told me he treats anyone exposed to benzene as if there kidneys and liver are of a twelve year old. ie that he won't give me any medicines that would put any extra strain on these organs as they are the organs mainly affected by benzene? does that sound right?

yeah i think he's erring on side of caution as he's not involved in occupational exposure.

i saw a physio today and she has told me to go to the doctor for anti-inflammatry medicine and i start yoga tonight! i really want to sleep though.
534785 tn?1329595808
That sounds right, because they are the main components of our body's "filtration system. But it's important to note you weren't exposed to pure benzene, and no where near the amount that causes any permanent damage to organs. I mean, there were guys that used to WASH their hands in benzene every day at work, like people do with acetone nowadays.

It does sound like your doctor is really erring on the side of caution, so if you're at all worried, stick with medications that will do the same job, but be easier on the kidneys and liver. Otherwise, I really don't think you're going to have any problems. I think what your doctor will try to avoid are things such as ibuprofen, and the like. Though at this point, it's been 3+ years...even if you were exposed to large quantities of a dangerous chemical substance long-term, we'd be seeing serious problems. Has your doctor contacted anyone, personally, to ask them about your case so they can give a commentary over the phone (without you having to bother visiting them)--as in, they can say, "Oh, she should be fine...that exposure is extremely minimal," so he can treat you with the proper medication? I'm not sure what specialist would deal with that, but I'm sure there is one! An NSAID will really help you out with your pain, I think, and eventually the swelling/pain should go away (within a few months--probably just a nasty viral infection).

Yoga sounds good, actually. I could use that right about now! I'm running all over the city trying to understand the free public transportation that my school offers...it's hellish!!! I could also go for a nap.....=)
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