How many benzene VOCs are in your home?

Chemical name: Vinyl Benzene

Pink fiberglass insulation hanging down from a basement crawl space with the words 'is it the benzene VOCs in the fiberglass? Could fibromyalgia simply be an allergy to fiberlass?''overlayed'

Benzene is a naturally occurring chemical that can be found in the environment. For example trace amounts can be found in coffee beans, peanuts, strawberries and cinnamon. Like the seeds of an apple that contain trace amounts of cyanide that will not hurt you if you decide to eat the entire apple, eating a lot of the seeds can kill you.

A synthetic version of benzene is being produced in massive quantities and is literally everywhere. Benzene is one of the VOC compounds that get emitted into the air.

Benzene is a known human carcinogen.

Other names for benzene are styrene, vinyl benzene, vinylbenzene. benzol, coal tar naphtha, cyclohexatriene, ethenylbenzene, ethenyl benzene, phenylethylene, phenyl hydride, styrene monomer, styrolene, styrol, styropol, cinnamene and Diarex HF 77. It has a sweet odor and is a low-lying VOC vapor that is heavier than air and tends to drop to low laying areas. Benzene will float on top of water, only dissolving slightly. Most homes have a high concentration of invisible benzene VOC vapors all over.

Today benzene can be found in...

Rubber products seem to be the worst. The softer the rubber or plastic the more severe the reaction I have to it.

It is of my opinion based off my own personal experience that those suffering from fibromyalgia are reacting to something in their environment. For me it’s the VOC vapor benzene. I have been using rubbing alcohol to wipe off my skin when I am unable to take a shower after exposure and it always made me feel better. I never knew why. I assumed it was because it was taking off a layer of skin. But now I think its more than that. I read that rubbing alcohol some types of dissolves plastic. benzene is in the types of plastic I am allergic to. There has to be a connection there. Perhaps it delutes the compound?

When I was in my early 20s I figured out that carpets made me feel sick. When I was in my mid 40s I figured out that I got bad reactions from fiberglass insulation. When the air ducts at my work office were deteriorating blowing microscopic glass particles into the air I could feel the glass, but I could also feel some type of chemical my body was reacting to. Out of all of the things I get a bad reaction from, benzene is the common ingredient. When I looked up styrene sickness and benzene related illnesses, the symptoms matched. Fiberglass insulation not only contains benzene, but formaldehyde along with other chemicals.

When I was in my late 40s I started experiencing nerve problems, which is a symptom of acute benzene exposure.

Benzene is used to make polystyrene and it can be found in fiberglass. A common chemical in everything I get sick from.

When we discovered that the fiberglass in our home was making us sick, we had moved out of our house and into our barn while we removed all of that type of insulation. We had to rig the hose to get water to the part of the barn we were living in. We did not want to drink water from a hose so we started getting bottled water delivered. That is what we drank for 3 years. Then with all of the stress of not having a kitchen and only a sink, hot plate and microwave, we began to eat frozen dinners. We picked the TV type dinners with the best purest ingredients we could fine. The ones were you put the black tray in the microwave and cook it.

The palm side up of a swollen hand that is turning purple in color

I started developing nerve problems. I could not even type. My arms and hands began to hurt, screaming knife pain. All kinds of pains. I saw three hand to shoulder specialist and one family doctor. I was in the ER for 10 hours because my left hand swelled up and turned purple. No one had a clue and all of my bloodwork came back just fine. Yet my body hurt. My knees ached, my hands hurt like a pain that I put right up there with child birth if not worse because it was sharp and unpredictable. I got scared and I started trying really hard to figure it out. I personally do not believe in sicknesses for no reason at all. There had to be a reason. The first hand doctor told me there was nothing more he could do and to get a second opinion. I went to my family doctor and she sent me to a second hand and shoulder specialist who admited that she was stumped. She sent me to a third hand and shoulder doctor who was older and had seen a lot of cases. He diagnosed me with Cubital Tunnel Syndrome after having a nerve test. Then my symtoms increased. My arms itched to the point where I wanted to scratch them bloody raw. Then I started getting pains between my toes and other random places on my body.

Two hands side by side one looks normal and the other is swollen and will not open all of the way with the palm side up. Two hands side by side with the one on the right looking normal and the one on the left swollen, discolored with a limited range of motion

I started feeling like something was wrong with the water bottles. The feeling you get when you eat too much of something for too long, you don’t hate it but you feel like you just don’t want to eat that anymore. We had moved back into our house but we were still drinking the bottled water because it was a subscription that was being delivered to our doorstep and we hadn’t canceled it. We were still eating the TV type dinners out of habit. I tested our well water and it tested fine so I stopped drinking the water bottles. I also started avoiding eating from plastic. In 24 hours my knees stopped aching and my arms stopped itching. I mentally and physically felt better. I was convinced it was related.

I figured out that there was a common ingredient in all of the things that would make me feel sick, benzene. Benzene is a colorless liquid that evaporates easily into a low-lying VOC vapor. I believe that the longer a water bottle sits, the more benzene leaches into the bottle. Especially if left in the sun.

Every time I eliminated one more thing containing benzene I felt a little better, but I was missing something. There were times when I would feel really good, and then suddenly get dizzy, nauseated, fatigued and I was constantly dropping things, my coordination was going. I felt like I was battling depression. I knew it was possible to feel really good, but something was making me go back and forth. Then I figured it out!

I discovered that the pads and tampons I was wearing contained rayon. Rayon contains benzene. I have known for years that I cannot wear the materials rayon, viscose, modal and lyocell. They all contain benzene and they all give me the same reactions as fiberglass insulation.

I was wearing a panty liner every day. When I would get my period I would wear two or three tampons during the heavy time along with a big thick pad, and just a big thick pad for the slower flow until it ended at which time I would begin using the thin panty liner pad again. I always had on a feminine pad, feeding my body a constant supply of benzene.

Women are about 90% more likely to get fibromyalgia than men. Women wear maxi pads and tampons which contain benzene. A lot of women's clothing are made from rayon, viscose, modal and lyocell, which also contain benzene.

From what I read, benzene evaporates from your body at a fast rate, 5 to 10 hours. Hence why I can feel good and then bad so quickly. I could always feel what I would call “bad air” on people. The benzene is evaporating from their clothing and bodies. It all makes sense now.

My theory about the itchy skin is, it is the benzene evaporating. The higher the concentration the harsher it is as it exits the body. My arms were itchy and when I lowered my benzene level it was not so concentrated. My arms stopped itching.

While benzene can be found in small amounts naturally in the environment, high concentrations of syntheticly made benzene are inside our homes and public buildings. When you get too much inside of your body it causes problems. If you are allergic it can cause even more problems. It is a good idea to consciously keep your benzene levels inside your body at a low level.

Examples that helped me figure out it was benzene.

Twelve hours after removing the panty liner, I feel like a new person. Happier, less achy, my nerve pain has lessened and my hand swelling is way down.

I was avoiding benzene and my mood had gone from struggle to happy, very very happy. Like I had taken a drug, only I had not. Then I drank a 1/4th glass full of milk from a plastic milk jug and in 10 minutes the happy mood snapped back to the struggle to stay happy. I read benzene causes depression.

Later when I was feeling better I ate a frozen chicken pot pie and within a few minutes my arms extremely itched again and nerve pain shot between my fingers.

A wooden cabinet full of throw away plastic cups, plastic utensils, paper plates, napkins and other party supplies

I opened our cabinet full of one time use plastics that we keep for parties. Immediately my sinuses and throat got sore and my arms began to itch. At least one plastic item was emitting the benzene VOC vapor. I had not opened that cabinet in months. We were planning a New Years Eve party and I wanted to take inventory.

I can feel it coming from black plastic trash bags when I shake them open. My arms and hands tingle and if I hold them too long I get nerve pain. I can also feel my face get numb.

I grabbed a handful of maxi pads to throw them away. I will never be wearing them again. From touching them my palm began to tingle followed by pain. I got a metallic taste in my mouth and my body went cold the same way it feels when contrast dye is injected into your body before a CAT scan.

I am at the begining stages of figuring out which items give me a benzene reaction. I will update the website as I learn more.

Sharon Maguire - Updated 1-16-2020

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