In the United States our way of life is made possible by petroleum products such as gasoline and oil. Indeed we would not be where we are today without oil, but what is the cost to the health of our nation? Considering that most of us are regularly exposed to gasoline vapors, should we accept the addition of benzene, a class A known human carcinogen, to our gasoline?
Gasoline and oil products and the industries that surround them pose a significant threat to the health of consumers, workers, and communities:
- The international center for technology assessment estimates that medical costs associated with gasoline and diesel related cancers, birth defects, respiratory illnesses are well above $500 billion a year.
- An Denver USA study shows that children living near heavy traffic and/or gas stations are six times more likely to have cancer, and eight times more likely to have leukemia. (Benzene is unquestionably linked to several leukemias like acute myeloid leukemia, and acute lymphocytic leukemia.)
- Britain’s Birmingham University calls gasoline and vehicle emissions "the primary culprits" directly responsible for their conclusion that UK children living near major traffic hubs face 12 times more risk of cancer related death.
- German scientists found that blood benzene concentrations in children living near heavy traffic or filling stations are 70% higher than in other children.
The above facts are indeed disturbing and perhaps a slap in the face to anyone who hasn’t yet noticed that human health is often unable to trump profit in the current economy.
Take for example the tobacco industry, makers of the only product that, when used as directed, causes death. Like the petrochemical industry they too are allowed to add benzene, and whatever other chemicals they want, to their products without any regulation.
But why must we be poisoned on a regular basis? Why don’t we just take the known carcinogens out of the gas and call it good?
Let’s face it, it’s no coincidence that of the seven EPA designated class A known human carcinogens, benzene and 1,3 butadiene (the ones in gas and cigarettes), are by far the least restricted. Restricting these commodity chemicals, or replacing them with alternatives (yes they exist) would cut deeply into the profits of some of the most economically powerful groups in the world.
It is true that blending ethanol with gasoline can result in a significantly less toxic fuel, in some parts of the U.S. these fuels are already available, but many doubt that ethanol blended fuels will ever sweep the globe because ethanol production is agriculture based and thus elaborate and costly.
While it is currently impossible to completely eliminate petrochemical exposure in our population, we must hold oil companies accountable for their actions and insure that the fuels that humans regularly handle are as free of carcinogens as possible. The facts above show that the current situation is completely unacceptable.