JP Fuel and Benzene


Benzene can enter your body through your lungs when breathing contaminated air. It can also enter through your stomach and intestines when eating food or drinking water that contains benzene. Benzene can enter your body through skin contact with benzene-containing products such as gasoline or JP Fuel.

When you are exposed to high levels of JP fuel or benzene in air, about half of the benzene you breathe in leaves your body when you breathe out. The other half passes through the lining of your lungs and enters your bloodstream. Animal studies show that benzene taken in by eating or drinking contaminated foods behaves similarly in the body to benzene that enters through the lungs. A small amount of benzene will enter your body by passing through your skin and into your bloodstream during skin contact with benzene or benzene-containing products. Once in the bloodstream, benzene travels throughout your body and can be temporarily stored in the bone marrow and fat. Benzene is converted to products, called metabolites, in the liver and bone marrow. Some of the harmful effects of benzene exposure are believed to be caused by these metabolites. Most of the metabolites of benzene leave the body in the urine within 48 hours after exposure.

Health Effects

After exposure to JP fuel or benzene, several factors determine whether harmful health effects will occur and if they do what the type and severity of these health effects might be. These factors include the amount of benzene to which you are exposed and the length of time of the exposure. Most data involving effects of long-term exposure to benzene are from studies of workers employed in industries that make or use benzene. These workers were exposed to levels of benzene in air far greater than the levels normally encountered by the general population. Current levels of benzene in workplace air are much lower than in the past. Because of this reduction, and the availability of protective equipment such as respirators, fewer workers have symptoms of benzene poisoning.

Brief exposure (5-10 minutes) to very high levels of benzene in air (10,000-20,000 ppm) can result in death. Lower levels (700-3,000 ppm) can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness. In most cases, people will stop feeling these effects when they stop being exposed and begin to breathe fresh air.

Eating or drinking foods containing high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, irritation of the stomach, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, rapid heart rate, coma, and death. The health effects that may result from eating or drinking foods containing lower levels of benzene are not known. If you spill benzene on your skin, it may cause redness and sores. Benzene in your eyes may cause general irritation and damage to your cornea.

Benzene causes problems in the blood. People who breathe benzene for long periods may experience harmful effects in the tissues that form blood cells, especially the bone marrow. These effects can disrupt normal blood production and cause a decrease in important blood components. A decrease in red blood cells can lead to anemia. Reduction in other components in the blood can cause excessive bleeding. Blood production may return to normal after exposure to benzene stops. Excessive exposure to benzene can be harmful to the immune system, increasing the chance for infection and perhaps lowering the body's defense against cancer.

Benzene can cause cancer of the blood-forming organs. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene is a known human carcinogen. Long-term exposure to relatively high levels of benzene in the air can cause cancer of the blood-forming organs. This condition is called leukemia.

Exposure to benzene has also been linked with damage to chromosomes which are the parts of cells that are responsible for the development of hereditary characteristics. Exposure to benzene may also be harmful to the reproductive organs. Some women workers who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods. When examined, these women showed a decrease in the size of their ovaries. However, exact exposure levels were unknown, and the studies of these women did not prove that benzene caused these effects. It is not known what effects exposure to benzene might have on the developing fetus in pregnant women or on fertility in men. Studies with pregnant animals show that breathing benzene has harmful effects on the developing fetus. These effects include low birth weight, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage.

The health effects that might occur in humans following long-term exposure to food and water contaminated with benzene are not known. In animals, exposure to food or water contaminated with benzene can damage the blood and the immune system and can even cause cancer.

Parkinsons Disease could be caused by benzene or JP Fuel exposure. In the brain, two chemical messengers, dopamine and acetylcholine work in balance to transmit messages between nerve cells and muscles. These messages enable us to perform a range of co-coordinated movements. In people with Parkinson's this balance is upset because some of the dopamine-producing cells are lost. When about 80% of the dopamine has been lost, the symptoms of Parkinson's appear and the level of dopamine will continue to fall slowly over many years.
The reason why the loss of dopamine occurs in the brains of people with Parkinson's is currently unknown. Most researchers believe it is likely that many factorsplay a role in causing Parkinson's. Areas of research into the cause include genetics, environmental factors and viruses. If this is secondary to JP fuel exposure, as a result it will take years for the condition to manifest itself. There would be no symptoms shown while in service.


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