Air Pollution

Curbing Benzene Emission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Benzene pollution

Mains level: Not Much

A joint committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to study air pollution in Kerala has pointed out that petrol refuelling stations were a major source of benzene emissions and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Why such a move?

  • Benzene is a major constituent of evaporative emission due to its high volatility.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following:

  1. Carbon monoxide
  2. Methane
  3. Ozone
  4. Sulphur dioxide

Which of the above are released into atmosphere due to the burning of crop/biomass residue?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2, 3 and 4 only

(c) 1 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

What is Benzene?

  • Benzene is a chemical that is a colourless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odour and is highly flammable.
  • It evaporates into the air very quickly. Its vapour is heavier than air and may sink into low-lying areas.
  • It dissolves only slightly in water and will float on top of the water.

Its formation and uses

Benzene is formed from both natural processes and human activities.

  • Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.
  • Some industries use benzene to make other chemicals that are used to make plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibres.
  • It is also used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.

Benzene emission

  • The major sources of benzene exposure are tobacco smoke, automobile service stations, exhaust from motor vehicles, and industrial emissions.
  • Benzene is present in both exhaust and evaporative emissions. Motor vehicles account for approximately 85% of the total benzene emissions.
  • However, ingestion and dermal absorption of benzene can also occur through contact with contaminated water.

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