Benzene is used as a starting point for the production of industrial chemicals and for the manufacture of detergents, explosives and pharmaceuticals. It is also present in gasoline and was once commonly employed as a chemical solvent. Because benzene is so widely used, there has been considerable debate over the safety of exposed workers, especially since experience has shown it to be a cancer hazard.
Tragically, human evidence was once again undermined by the animal laboratory. According to Lester Lave of the Brookings Institute in Washington DC, “although there are reliable human data linking benzene to leukemia, scientists have been reluctant to categorise benzene as a carcinogen because there are no published reports that it induces leukemia in rodents.”(1)
In fact, 14 separate animal trials, starting in 1932, failed to show that benzene caused cancer.(2) Only during the late 1980s were researchers finally able to induce cancer in laboratory animals by dosing them with benzene.
1) L.B.Lave, The American Statistician, 1982, vol 36, 260-261.
2) D.M.De Marini et al, in Benchmarks: Alternative Methods in Toxicology, Ed. M.A.Mehlman (Princeton Scientific Publishing Co.lnc.,1989).
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