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Health Risks Among Adults after a Prolonged Flaring Incident at the British Petroleum Plant in Texas City

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

Abstract

Objective: Human exposure to benzene is associated with multiple adverse health effects including hematopoietic malignancies, respiratory irritation, and immune system alterations and central nervous system abnormalities. The purpose of this study is to examine health effects of a benzene exposure among adult subjects from a prolonged flaring incident at the British petroleum (BP) refinery in the Texas City, Texas.

Methods: The study included adults aged 18 years or older who had been exposed and unexposed to benzene. Using medical charts, clinical data including white blood cells (WBC), platelets, hemoglobin, hematocrit, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), aspartate amino transferase (AST), and alanine amino transferase (ALT) in adults exposed to benzene were reviewed and analyzed and compared with unexposed adults.

Results: A total of 2213 adult subjects (benzene exposed, n=1826 and unexposed, n=387) were included. Benzene exposed subjects had significantly higher levels of WBC (X 103 per µL) counts (7.9±2.3 versus 6.8±1.6, P=0.0000) and platelet (X 103 per µL) counts (270.8±60.9 versus 242.5±53.7, P=0.0.0000) compared with the unexposed subjects. The mean serum creatinine levels (mg/dL) were also significantly increased in the benzene exposed group compared with the unexposed group (1.0 ±0.2 versus 0.8±0.2, P=0.000). Serum levels of ALP (IU/L) was significantly elevated in the benzene exposed subjects compared with the unexposed subjects (82.1±15.6 versus 71.8±8.2, P=0.000). Similarly, benzene exposed subjects had significantly higher levels of AST and ALT compared with those unexposed to benzene.

Conclusion: Together, the results of the study reveal that Benzene exposure from the prolonged BP flaring incident caused significant alterations in their hematological and liver markers indicating that adult subjects exposed to benzene may be 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.