There are twp types of poisoning associated with benzene, acute and chronic. Acute poisoning refers to an exposure to a high level of benzene in a short period of time. This type of exposure usually happens in an enclosed space such as a tank or vessel with benzene residues, or from spills or equipment failure. Acute poisoning affects the central nervous system with symptoms such as:
- Staggering gait
- Flushed face
- Incoherent speech
- Tingling in hands and feet
Symptoms of acute poisoning can last up to two weeks and the length of recovery will depend on the severity of exposure. However, if the exposure is severe enough, the breathing center of the brain is paralyzed and death occurs.
Chronic poisoning refers to exposure to low levels of benzene over a long period of time. This is the more common from of industrial benzene poisoning. Symptoms of chronic benzene poisoning include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- General weakness
- Bleeding gums
- Pallor and purple disfigurations
Benzene may also cause damage to chromosomes, and that chromosomal damage also confirms the cancer-causing potential of benzene.