Illness Symptoms Experienced by Children Exposed to Benzene After a Flaring Incident at the BP Refinery Facility in Texas City

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Abstract

Objective. To evaluate the illness symptoms experienced by children who were exposed to benzene following a flaring incident at the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas. Methods. A total of 641 children, aged <17 years, exposed to benzene were included. Using medical charts, data on the children's illness symptoms as well as the serum levels of β-2-microglobulin and the amount of urinary excretion of phenol were reviewed and analyzed. Results. A total of 1790 illness symptoms were reported in 641 children exposed to benzene. Upper respiratory symptoms were the most (67%) frequently reported, followed by neurological symptoms (57%), diarrhea (25%), and cough (24%). Logistic regression analysis indicated that neurological symptoms (R2 = 0.75), chest pain (R2 = 0.64), joint pain (R2 = 0.57), and vision difficulty (R2 = 0.54) were positively associated with increasing age. β-2-Microglobulin levels were significantly higher in children <5 years compared with those >5 year (P = .04). Conversely, urinary phenol levels were significantly lower in children <5 years compared with those >5 years (P = .00). Conclusion. Together, these findings reveal that children exposed to benzene experience a range of illness symptoms and an altered profile of urinary phenol indicating their vulnerability to potentially increased health complications.

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