Benzene ranks 16th in production volume for chemicals produced in the United States, with approximately 9.9 billion pounds being produced in 1984, 9.1 billion pounds in 1983, and 7.8 billion pounds in 1982. This simplest aromatic chemical in used in the synthesis of styrene (polystyrene plastics and synthetic rubber), phenol (phenolic resins), cyclohexane (nylon), aniline, maleic anhydride (polyester resins), alkylbenzenes (detergents), chlorobenzenes, and other products used in the production of drugs, dyes, insecticides, and plastics. Benzene, along with other light, high-octane aromatic hydrocarbons, such as toluene and xylenes, is a component of motor gasoline. Benzene is also used as a solvent, but for most applications, it has been replaced by less hazardous solvents.
During the 17-week studies, groups of 10 or 15 male and female F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice were gavaged 5 days per week with benzene in corn oil (5 ml/kg) at doses of 0 to 600 mg/kg. No benzene-related deaths occurred; in rats that received benzene, final mean body weights were 14%-22% lower compared with vehicle controls and in mice, slight dose-related reductions were observed (less than 10% differences). Doses for the 2-year studies were selected based on clinical observations (tremors in higher dosed mice), on clinical pathologic findings (lymphoid depletion in rats and leukopenia in mice), and on body weight effects.
Two-year toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of benzene (greater than 99.7% pure) were conducted in groups of 50 F344/N rats and 50 B6C3F1 mice of each sex and for each dose. Doses of 0, 50, 100, or 200 mg/kg body weight benzene in corn oil (5 ml/kg) were administered by gavage to male rats, 5 days per week, for 103 weeks. Doses of 0, 25, 50, or 100 mg/kg benzene in corn oil were administered by gavage to female rats and to male and female mice for 103 weeks. Ten additional animals in each of the 16 groups were killed at 12 months and necropsies were performed. Hematologic profiles were performed at 3-month intervals. These studies were designed and conducted because of large production volume and potential human exposure, because of the epidemiologic association with leukemia, and because previous experiments were considered inadequate or inconclusive for determining potential carcinogenicity in laboratory animals.
In the 2-year studies, mean body weights of the 200 mg/kg male rats (-23%) and the 100 mg/kg mice (-14% to -19%) were lower than those of the vehicle controls, and survival of dosed groups decreased with increasing dose (rats--male: vehicle control, 32/50; low dose, 29/50; mid dose, 25/50; high dose, 16/50; female: 46/50; 38/50; 34/50; 25/50; mice--male: 28/50; 23/50; 18/50; 7/50; female: 30/50; 26/50; 24/50; 18/50). At week 92 for rats and week 91 for mice, survival was greater than 60% in all groups; most of the dosed animals that died before week 103 had neoplasia.
Compound-related nonneoplastic or neoplastic effects on the hematopoietic system, Zymbal gland, forestomach, and adrenal gland were found both for rats and mice. Further, the oral cavity was affected in rats, and the lung, liver, harderian gland, preputial gland, ovary, and mammary gland were affected in mice. Significantly increased (P<0.05) incidences of neoplasms were observed at multiple sites for male and female rats and for male and female mice. Primary neoplasms observed in rats and mice are summarized in Table 1 (see page 12 of the Technical Report).
Hematologic data from vehicle control and dosed rats and mice were obtained at 3-month intervals from 0 to 24 months. Reliably identifiable hematologic effects were limited to lymphocytopenia and associated leukocytopenia in benzene-dosed rats and mice. These effects were seen from 3 to 18 months in dosed male rats and in dosed male mice; a similar but less pronounced response was observed in dosed female rats during this same time period. The effect in female mice was limited to 12-18 months. The technical quality of certain of these data was questionable; thus, more detailed analyses (e.g., investigation of the association between hematologic and pathologic changes) are deemed inappropriate for these data. Benzene increased the frequency of micronucleated normchromatic peripheral erythrocytes in male and female mice (rats were not examined); males were more sensitive than females.
The hematopoietic system of rats and mice of each sex was affected by benzene in the 2-year studies. The incidences of malignant lymphomas in all dosed groups of mice were greater than those in the vehicle controls (male: 4/49; 9/48; 9/50; 15/49; female: 15/49; 24/45; 24/50; 20/49). Lymphoid depletion of the splenic follicles (rats) and thymus (male rats) was observed at increased incidences. Bone marrow hematopoietic hyperplasia was observed at increased incidences in dosed mice of each sex (male: 0/49; 11/48; 10/50; 25/49; female: 3/49; 14/45; 8/50; 13/49).
The incidences of Zymbal gland carcinomas in mid and high dose male rats and in dosed female rats were greater than those in the vehicle controls (male: 2/32; 6/46; 10/42; 17/42; female: 0/45; 5/40; 5/44; 14/46). The incidences of Zymbal gland carcinomas in mid and high dose male mice and in high dose female mice were greater than those in the vehicle controls (male: 0/43; 1/34; 4/40; 21/39; female: 0/43; 0/32; 1/37; 3/31). In mid and high dose male mice and in high dose female mice, the incidences of epithelial hyperplasia of the Zymbal gland were also increased (male: 0/43; 3/34; 12/40; 10/39; female: 1/43; 1/32; 2/37; 6/31).
Hyperplasia of the adrenal capsule was observed at increased incidences in dosed mice of each sex (male: 2/47; 32/48; 14/49; 4/46; female: 5/49; 19/44; 34/50; 30/48). The incidence of pheochromocytomas in mid dose male mice was greater than that in the vehicle controls (male: 1/47; 1/48; 7/49; 1/46), whereas the incidences in dosed female mice were lower than that in the vehicle controls (female: 6/49; 1/44; 1/50; 1/48). Hyperplasia of the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex was observed at increased incidences in low dose rats of each sex (male: 0/50; 13/49; 0/48; 2/49; female: 0/50; 17/50; 0/47; 0/49).
Benzene was associated with increased incidences of neoplasms of the skin and oral cavity of rats. The incidences of squamous cell papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin in high dose male rats were greater than those in the vehicle controls (squamous cell papilloma: 0/50; 2/50; 1/50; 5/50; squamous cell carcinoma: 0/50; 5/50; 3/50; 8/50). Increased incidences of uncommon squamous cell papillomas or squamous cell carcinomas (combined) of the oral cavity were observed in dosed male and female rats (male: 1/50; 9/50; 16/50; 19/50; female: 1/50; 5/50; 12/50; 9/50). Incidences of squamous cell papillomas or carcinomas (combined) (male: 2/45; 2/42; 3/44; 5/38; female: 1/42; 3/40; 6/45; 5/42), hyperkeratosis, and epithelial hyperplasia of the forestomach were increased in some dosed groups of male and female mice; incidences of hyperkeratosis and acanthosis were increased in high dose male rats.
Compound-related effects in the lung, harderian gland, preputial gland, ovary, mammary gland, and liver were seen in mice but not in rats. Administration of benzene was associated with increased incidences of alveolar epithelial hyperplasia in mid and high dose mice (male: 2/49; 3/48; 7/50; 10/49; female: 1/49; 1/42; 9/50; 6/49). Increased incidences of alveolar/bronchiolar carcinomas and alveolar/bronchiolar adenomas or carcinomas (combined) were observed in high dose male mice (carcinomas: 5/49; 11/48; 12/50; 14/49; adenomas or carcinomas: 10/49; 16/48; 19/50; 21/49). Alveolar/bronchiolar adenomas were seen at increased incidences in high dose female mice (4/49; 2/42; 5/50; 9/49), as were alveolar/bronchiolar carcinomas (0/49; 3/42; 6/50; 6/49) and alveolar/bronchiolar adenomas or carcinomas combined (4/49; 5/42; 10/50; 13/49) in mid and high dose female mice.
The incidences of focal or diffuse hyperplasia of the harderian gland were increased in dosed mice of each sex (male: 0/49; 5/46; 11/49; 7/48; female: 6/48; 10/44; 11/50; 10/47). The incidences of harderian gland adenomas (0/49; 9/46; 13/49; 11/48) in dosed male mice were greater than that in the vehicle controls. A marginal increase in the incidence of adenomas or carcinomas (combined) of the harderian gland was seen in high dose female mice (5/48; 6/44; 10/50; 10/47).
The administration of benzene to male mice was associated with increased incidences of hyperplasia (1/21; 18/28; 9/29; 1/35) and squamous cell carcinomas (0/21; 3/28; 18/29; 28/35) of the preputial gland. Increased incidences of mammary gland carcinomas were found in mid dose and high dose female mice (0/49; 2/45; 5/50; 10/49) and carcinosarcomas in high dose female mice (0/49; 0/45; 1/50; 4/49).
Increased incidences of various uncommon neoplastic and nonneoplastic lesions of the ovary (papillary cystadenoma, luteoma, granulosa cell tumor, tubular adenoma, benign mixed tumor, epithelial hyperplasia, and senile atrophy) were associated with the administration of benzene to female mice. In mid and high dose female mice, the incidences of granulosa cell tumors (1/47; 1/44; 6/49; 7/48) and benign mixed tumors (0/47; 1/44; 12/49; 7/48) were greater than those in the vehicle controls.
Increased incidences of hepatocellular adenomas were observed in low dose female mice (1/49; 8/44; 5/50; 4/49) and hepatocellular adenomas or carcinomas (combined) in low dose and mid dose female mice (4/49; 12/44; 13/50; 7/49).
An audit of the experimental data was conducted for these 2-year carcinogenesis studies on benzene. No data discrepancies were found that influenced the final interpretations.
Under the conditions of these 2-year gavage studies, there was clear evidence of carcinogenicity of benzene for male F344/N rats, for female F344/N rats, for male B6C3F1 mice, and for female B6C3F1 mice. For male rats, benzene caused increased incidences of Zymbal gland carcinomas, squamous cell papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas of the oral cavity, and squamous cell papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin. For female rats, benzene caused increased incidences of Zymbal gland carcinomas and squamous cell papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas of the oral cavity. For male mice, benzene caused increased incidences of Zymbal gland squamous cell carcinomas, malignant lymphomas, alveolar/bronchiolar carcinomas and alveolar/bronchiolar adenomas or carcinomas (combined), harderian gland adenomas, and squamous cell carcinomas of the preputial gland. For female mice, benzene caused increased incidences of malignant lymphomas, ovarian granulosa cell tumors, ovarian benign mixed tumors, carcinomas and carcinosarcomas of the mammary gland, alveolar/bronchiolar adenomas, alveolar/bronchiolar carcinomas, and Zymbal gland squamous cell carcinomas. Dose-related lymphocytopenia was observed for male and female F344/N rats and male and female B6C3F1 mice.