Benzene and your health

Cars stuck in a traffic jam with exhaust present

The risk to your health from breathing in any chemical depends on how much is in the air and how long and how often you breathe it in. Breathing in very high levels of benzene for hours or days can cause different health impacts than breathing in high levels of benzene for years. Low levels usually do not cause health impacts. 

What is benzene?

Benzene is a volatile organic compound (VOC). VOCs are chemicals that are released into the air from many sources. They are in vehicle exhaust and in the things we use every day, like cleaning products, paint, and gasoline. Tobacco and wildfire smoke contains VOCs, including benzene. Oil and gas operations and other industries release VOCs into the air.

Benzene and your health

  • Benzene is known to cause cancer, and breathing high levels for many years can cause leukemia.
  • High levels of benzene also can cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system, increasing the chance of infection.
  • People with asthma, young children, older adults, and people who are sensitive to chemicals may be more likely to have health impacts from benzene.
  • Symptoms to watch for include headaches, dizziness, breathing issues, rapid heart rate, irritated skin, or irritated eyes.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of too much benzene. If you have serious symptoms, or symptoms that don't go away, contact a health care provider.

Most people come into contact with benzene by breathing it in

Everyone is exposed to a small amount of benzene every day. Low levels of benzene are in the outdoor environment, in cars and buses, in the workplace, and in the home.

Limit your personal exposure to benzene

Follow these simple steps to improve the air quality in your home and reduce your exposure to benzene.

  • Avoid cigarette smoke.
  • Avoid breathing in fumes and splashing gasoline when fueling your vehicle.
  • Don't idle vehicles or start gas-powered equipment in the garage.
  • If possible, remove solvents and gasoline-powered tools and engines from attached garages. Use these tools and substances in well-ventilated areas.


For information about lead and your health, contact ToxCall at 303-692-2606 or cdphe_toxcall@state.co.us