Benzene is known to have toxic effects on the blood and bone marrow, but its impact at levels below the U.S. occupational standard of 1 part per million (ppm) remains uncertain. In a study of 250 workers exposed to benzene, white blood cell and platelet counts were significantly lower than in 140 controls, even for exposure below 1 ppm in air. Progenitor cell colony formation significantly declined with increasing benzene exposure and was more sensitive to the effects of benzene than was the number of mature blood cells. Two genetic variants in key metabolizing enzymes, myeloperoxidase and NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase, influenced susceptibility to benzene hematotoxicity. Thus, hematotoxicity from exposure to benzene occurred at air levels of 1 ppm or less and may be particularly evident among genetically susceptible subpopulations.
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