Is Your Car Full Of Cancer-Causing Benzene?!

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Do you have to drive with the windows down, because your car is full of cancer-causing benzene?!

Take a look at the viral claim, and find out what the facts really are!


Claim : Your Car Is Killing You With Cancer-Causing Benzene!

This message keep going viral on WhatsApp, and social media platforms, claiming that our cars are full of cancer-causing benzene! It’s really long, so feel free to skip to the next section for the facts!

😳🔴C A U T I O N🔴😳

🚙 🚘 🚗 🚖 🚕
🔈 This msg from Dr Syed Badar Husain, renowned neurologist in Atlanta:

Plz circulate🔜

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Is Your Car Full Of Cancer-Causing Benzene?!


Truth : Your Car Is Not Killing You With Benzene!

This appears to be yet another example of FAKE NEWS circulating on WhatsApp, and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and here are the reasons why!

Fact #1 : This Is Very Old Fake News

First, I should point out that this isn’t a new viral message. This message first appeared in chain letters sent by email sometime in 2009. It then migrated to social media platforms and instant messengers over time.

Fact #2 : No Evidence Dr. Badar Wrote It

There appears to be a neurologist called Dr. Badar Husain Syed, but he is based in Snellville, Georgia, not Atlanta; and he specialises in Sleep Medicine. There is no evidence Dr. Syed ever wrote that viral message.

Fact #3 : Benzene Has Been Linked With Cancer

Benzene is a colourless, volatile chemical with a sweet odour, that is commonly used in many industries. It is found in everything from plastics to lubricants, rubbers, cigarettes, detergents, drugs, pesticides, and even petrol / gasoline.

Studies have shown that exposure to high levels of benzene is associated with increased risk of developing leukaemia. However, it does not appear to be associated with other types of cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies benzene as “carcinogenic to humans”. The US EPA also classifies benzene as “a known human carcinogen”.

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Is Your Car Full Of Cancer-Causing Benzene?!

Fact #4 : American Cancer Society Called It Fake

In 2011, the American Cancer Society (ACS) addressed the viral message, and called it fake news.

We found no published studies that confirm the claims of this e-mail. Benzene levels that exceed recommendations for chronic workplace exposure have been observed in some moving cars, but these levels seem unlikely in properly maintained cars.

Fact #5 : 2007 German Study Disproved Claim

In 2007, the American Chemical Society published a German study called “Toxicity of Parked Motor Vehicle Indoor Air“, which looked at “the health effects of emissions from vehicles exposed to “parked in sunshine” conditions“.

The researchers exposed a new car, as well as a 3 year-old car with identical interior to 14,000 watts of light, and then analysed their indoor air. They found that both cars produced different kinds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs):

Vehicle Age Major VOCs
New Car o,m,p-xylenes, C3 and C4-alkylbenzenes,
dodecane, tridecane, methylpyrrolidinone
3 yo Car acetone, methylpyrrolidinone,
methylcyclohexane, acetaldehyde,
o,m,p-xylenes, ethylhexanol, toluene

Interestingly, the study did not find any significant amount of benzene inside both cars, despite subjecting them to intense levels of light and heat.

The study also found that the indoor air of both cars do not pose apparent health hazards. The amounts of VOCs present in the indoor air collected also did not appear to pose any carcinogenic risk.

No toxicity was observed in any cell line with or without metabolic activation. Neither did we find an effect on type IV sensitization or an irritative potential.

A slight but statistically significant aggravating effect on IgE-mediated immune response of only the new vehicle indoor air was determined (p < 0.05). The IgE-response modulating effect of indoor air might be relevant for atopic individuals.

Else no direct toxicity, no toxicity after metabolic activation by cytochrome P450, and no irritative or type IV sensitizing potential of motor vehicle indoor air were found, neither from the new nor used vehicle. Our investigations indicated no apparent health hazard of parked motor vehicle indoor air.

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Is Your Car Full Of Cancer-Causing Benzene?!

Fact #6 : Biggest Benzene Risk Are From Other Causes

Benzene is so commonly used in many products that it is simply impossible to avoid exposure completely. But your car’s indoor air is really the least of your worries, if at all.

Workplace exposure to benzene is a major risk, which is why benzene exposure is heavily regulated at the workplace. Even so, workers in the rubber industry, oil-related industries (including refineries and petrol stations), chemical plants, shoe manufacturers, steel workers, lab technicians and firefighters have increased exposure to benzene.

Outside of the workplace, people are most exposed to benzene from vehicle exhaust fumes, fumes and wastewater from nearby factories, petrol stations, etc. Many people are also exposed to benzene from smoking cigarettes, or second-hand smoke.

To limit your exposure to benzene, American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends doing the following:

Stay away from cigarette smoke. If you are person who smokes, try to quit. It’s also important to avoid secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke is a major source of benzene exposure.

Pump gas carefully and use gas stations with vapor recovery systems that capture the fumes. Avoid skin contact with gasoline.

When possible, limit the time you spend near idling car engines. This can help lower your exposure to exhaust fumes, which contain benzene (as well as other potentially harmful chemicals).

Use common sense around any chemicals that might contain benzene. Limit or avoid exposure to fumes from solvents, paints, and art supplies, especially in unventilated spaces.

If you are exposed to benzene at your workplace, talk to your employer about limiting your exposure through process changes (such as replacing the benzene with another solvent or enclosing the benzene source) or by using personal protective equipment. If needed, you can also contact the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), which can provide more information or assistance.

Notice how the ACS did not mention driving with your car windows down? Or “flushing” the air inside your car before driving? That’s because there is simply no evidence that there is significant amounts of benzene inside your car.

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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.

He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.


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