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Environ Health Perspect. 1993 Apr;100:293-306.

The toxicology of benzene.

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Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, Piscataway 08855-1179.


Benzene is metabolized, primarily in the liver, to a series of phenolic and ring-opened products and their conjugates. The mechanism of benzene-induced aplastic anemia appears to involve the concerted action of several metabolites acting together on early stem and progenitor cells, as well as on early blast cells, such as pronormoblasts and normoblasts to inhibit maturation and amplification. Benzene metabolites also inhibit the function of microenvironmental stromal cells necessary to support the growth of differentiating and maturing marrow cells. The mechanism of benzene-induced leukemogenesis is less well understood. Benzene and its metabolites do not function well as mutagens but are highly clastogenic, producing chromosome aberrations, sister chromatid exchange, and micronuclei. Benzene has been shown to be a multi-organ carcinogen in animals. Epidemiological studies demonstrate that benzene is a human leukemogen. There is need to better define the lower end of the dose-response curve for benzene as a human leukemogen. The application of emerging methods in biologically based risk assessment employing pharmacokinetic and mechanistic data may help to clarify the uncertainties in low-dose risk assessment.

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