At high and prolonged exposure levels (e.g. >30 ppm), benzene can cause hematological effects. However, there is conflicting evidence on potential hematological effects at lower concentrations. We conducted a study to examine hematological effects at low benzene exposure levels in an occupational setting. Extensive exposure data and data from routine hematology examinations were available for Dow employees at the Terneuzen site in the Netherlands. We compared 8532 blood samples of Dow employees with low benzene exposure to 12,173 samples of employees with no benzene exposure that were available for the period between 1981 and 2007. Based on 21,584 benzene air measurements, a Job Exposure Matrix (JEM) was constructed for all employees with exposure. The JEM was used to estimate benzene exposure in the year in which each blood sample was collected. The average lymphocyte counts for the exposed and non-exposed group were similar. By means of mixed model regression adjustments were made for smoking, age and month of blood sample. These adjustments did not change the results and there was no indication for an adverse effect on any of the hematological parameters under investigation. A further stratification of the exposed population into three subgroups (1 ppm) showed no significant differences for any of the hematological parameters between the three exposure categories or compared with the non-exposed group. The analysis modeling the continuous exposure effect relationship showed similar findings. This study does not indicate that workers exposed to low benzene concentrations are at an increased risk for hematological effects.
- Hematological effects
- Low level exposure