The low-dose benzene debate needs a sharp blade
The health effects of benzene have been a major concern for regulators and health experts for many years. This has led to significantly lower regulatory threshold limits (such as occupational exposure limits, OELs) and the implementation of corresponding risk management measures to reduce benzene concentrations and human exposure to benzene in the production, transport and use of petroleum products such as gasolines. Over the past decade, a series of research papers has been published by a group of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who postulated effects of benzene at very low dose exposures—levels which are relevant to current operations in the oil and gas industry and are currently (well) below the occupational exposure limits in most jurisdictions. A strong public scientific debate followed the publication of these papers, and in response to this, Concawe concluded a research project this year with two independent consultants who reanalysed the dataset to shed new light on this ongoing debate.
This Concawe Review article provides the reader with a short overview of the scientific argumentation in the ongoing discussions on this topic as an example of an educational scientific debate, and puts it into perspective based on the results of the Concawe project.