Benzene And Hydrogen Sulfide: The Real Dangers From The Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill?

While most of the attention so far has been on the millions of gallons of oil that have escaped from the damaged BP rig in the Gulf of Mexico, many environmentalists are now wondering if the real danger to humans from this whole crisis may be the massive amounts of benzene and hydrogen sulfide that are escaping into the air.  Hydrogen sulfide is a chemical asphyxiant, similar to carbon monoxide and cyanide gases.  It causes “biochemical suffocation” by inhibiting cellular respiration and the uptake of oxygen.  Benzene is a highly carcinogenic gas that can cause death if inhaled at high enough concentrations.  Not only that, benzene has been shown to cause leukemia in all its forms.  High levels of both gases have been detected at testing stations in the Gulf of Mexico.  In addition, it is being reported that many fishermen in the Gulf that have been assisting with cleanup efforts have been getting seriously ill from breathing that air.  There have been reports of symptoms including headaches, nausea, dizziness, burning eyes, coughing, sore throats, and stuffy sinuses.  So as this oil spill continues and even more of these gases are released, are people across the southeast United States about to start breathing air that is filled with highly toxic gases?  Are we about to see the American Dream turned into a total nightmare for tens of millions of Americans?  What some scientists are now telling us about the release of these gases is truly frightening.


At some testing stations in the Gulf of Mexico, levels of benzene have been detected at over 3000 parts per billion (over 3 parts per million).  The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set a maximum workplace exposure limit of 1 part of benzene per million parts of air during an 8 hour workday.  So already some testing stations in the Gulf of Mexico have detected levels of benzene that are three times higher than what the OSHA considers to be safe.

Not only that, but WWLTV in New Orleans is reporting that hydrogen sulfide has been detected in the Gulf of Mexico at levels as high as 1,192 parts per billion.  The concentration threshold at which humans begin to experience physical symptoms from hydrogen sulfide is about 5 to 10 parts per billion.

Needless to say, this is beyond alarming.

On May 14th, WWLTV in New Orleans ran the following video report on the levels of hydrogen sulfide and benzene in the air at that time….

So what kind of damage can breathing these two chemicals do?

Let’s break them down one at a time.


Breathing high levels of Benzene can cause the following….



*Rapid Heart Rate




*Death (at very high concentrations)

Long-term exposure to Benzene can do a ton of damage to the human body.  Benzene actually enters cells and damages DNA material.  In addition, benzene is known to cause harmful effects on bone marrow and it can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia.

For women, long-term exposure to benzene can result in irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries.

In addition, as mentioned previously, benzene is a known cancer-causing agent.  In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services tells us that exposure to benzene is known to cause leukemia.

Hydrogen Sulfide

Breathing high levels of hydrogren sulfide can cause the following….

*Eye irritation

*Respiratory irritation





*Breathing Difficulties

*Fluid In The Lungs




*Death (at very high concentrations)

Hydrogen sulfide is considered a broad-spectrum poison, meaning that it can poison several different systems in the body at the same time.  As mentioned previously, hydrogen sulfide is a chemical asphyxiant.  It is similar to carbon monoxide and cyanide gases.  It can be extremely deadly at high concentrations.

So if the levels of these two gases continue to climb, will some areas along the Gulf coast need to be evacuated?

That is a legitimate question.

Right now this is a development that needs to be very closely watched, but so far the mainstream media does not seem that alarmed by the buildup of these gases.

Just as the authorities insisted that the air was safe to breathe at ground zero after 9/11 (but were proven horribly wrong later), they are also promising that the air in the Gulf of Mexico is safe to breathe now.

But if you live in that region you are going to need to do your own research.  BP does not care about you and they are not going to let you know if the air is a health danger to you and your family.  Do not just blindly rely on what the “authorities” tell you to do.  If things continue to get worse with these gases, you are going to have to make your own decision about whether or not it is best to get away from the coast for a while.

Benzene and hydrogen sulfide are nothing to scoff at.  Both gases can have very serious health effects.  If any of you out there have any additional information on these matters, please let us know and we will do our best to get it out to our readers.

CHG Partners