Health Consequences Of Benzene Exposure Among Children Following a Flaring Incident At Petroleum Refinery In Texas City

Mark D'Andrea, Ajay Mitter and G. Kesava Reddy


Objective Human exposure to benzene is associated with multiple adverse health effects leading to hematological malignancies. The objective of this retrospective study was to evaluate the health consequences of benzene and other toxic chemical exposure in children following a flaring incident at the British petroleum refinery in the Texas City, Texas.

Methods The study included children aged < 17 years who had been exposed and unexposed to benzene due to a flaring incident at the British petroleum refinery facility. Using medical charts, clinical data including white blood cell (WBC) counts, platelets counts, hemoglobin, hematocrit, blood urea nitrogen (BUN,) creatinine, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), aspartate amino transferase (AST), alanine amino transferase (ALT), and somatic symptom complaints by the children exposed to benzene were reviewed and analyzed.

Results A total of 312 subjects (benzene exposed, n=157 and unexposed, n=155) were included. Hematologic analysis showed that WBC counts were significantly decreased in benzene exposed children compared with the unexposed children (6.8 ± 2.1 versus 7.3 ± 1.7, P=0.022). Conversely, platelet (X 103 per µL) counts were increased significantly in the benzene exposed group compared with the unexposed group (278.4 ± 59.9 versus 261.6 ± 51.7, P=0.005). Similarly, benzene exposed children had significantly higher levels of ALP (183.7± 95.6 versus 165 ± 70.3 IU/L, P=0.04), AST (23.6 ± 15.3versus 20.5 ± 5.5 IU/L, P = 0.015), and ALT (19.2 ± 7.8 versus 16.9 ± 6.9 IU/L, P=0.005) compared with the unexposed children.

Conclusion Together, the results of the study reveal that children exposed to benzene experienced significantly altered blood profiles, liver enzymes and somatic symptoms indicating that children exposed to benzene are at a higher risk of developing hepatic or blood related disorders.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

  • * Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.