Benzene in Drinking Water
Benzene is a useful chemical that can be found in petrol or crude oil and has several industrial uses. It is primarily used in making plastics, rubber, paints, pesticides, and medicines.

Did you know sodas may contain benzene?

Benzene is a substance that doesn't stay in water too long and vaporizes into the air quite easily. Hence, the common route of exposure in humans is through inhalation. Bacteria tend to convert this substance into other forms in the presence of adequate oxygen. It is more common in soft drinks than in water but its something not to take lightly. Though it's not a major concern you need to be aware of the dangers and signs of its effects.

Effects of Benzene Exposure

Benzene intoxication in humans occurs mostly via inhalation. Exposure to significant levels of this substance has a direct and abrupt effect on the brain, leading to
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
Rarely does the same amount of exposure happen through the ingestion of benzene-contaminated water. Nonetheless, long term exposure to small doses of benzene can cause slow damage. This is possible through occupational exposure or long term ingestion of contaminated food or beverages. People who drink contaminated tap water or groundwater may be ingesting small amounts of Benzene and other contaminants without their knowledge. This poses long term health effects that lead to irreversible diseases. Drinking water that contains significant levels of Benzene can lead to cancers. Chronic exposure has adverse effects on your blood. Common diseases caused by gradual exposure are blood disorders like aplastic anemia and leukemia.

How Benzene Enters Water Supply

Rarely does Benzene contaminate Australia's drinking water supply. It is present in water sources but in extremely low concentrations. Nonetheless, contamination is still possible in groundwater or water catchments close to coal mines and petroleum deposits. Waters exposed to petrochemicals can have significantly high levels of Benzene. Factories, landfills, and gas storage facilities can leak benzene into streams, contaminating community water supplies in the process. The Australian Government sets regulations in waste management and disposal to prevent environmental pollution and water contamination. It sets particularly strict rules for companies that process or produce toxic chemicals.

Does Your Water Have Benzene?

You will never know by simply looking at your tap water. Benzene is colorless. In large amounts, you can detect it by its odour, but in tiny amounts, it cannot be detected at all. Your best bet is to rely on your state's water utilities to do the job for you. The good news is that state laws require water distributors to regularly monitor water quality in reservoirs and catchments and take action in case of contamination.

Removing Benzene

This seems a tough job, but it's not. With the right water filter, removal of chemicals like benzene is easy. Granular carbon filtration and aeration stripping are guaranteed methods to remove Benzene or, at least, keep it below the allowed maximum limit, which is 0.005 mg/L.