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Benzene from Iloilo oil spill reaches alarming level

Posted at | Updated as of 11/28/13 5:09 PM

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) said the benzene content in an area in Estancia, Iloilo affected by an oil spill has reached an alarming level.

Dr. Glen Alonsabe, DOH Region 6 epidemiologist, said benzene content in the area has reached 16.9 parts per million, way beyond the permissible limit of 0.5 ppm.

The American Cancer Society describes benzene as "a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates quickly when exposed to air… [and] is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke."

"Benzene is known to cause cancer, based on evidence from studies in both people and laboratory animals. The link between benzene and cancer has largely focused on leukemia and cancers of other blood cells," the society said.

Short-term exposure to the chemical compound causes drowsiness, dizziness or unconsciousness.

Due to the threats posed by the chemical compound, the DOH is strictly implementing a "No Personal Protective Equipment, No Work Policy" among those tasked to contained the oil spill.

The oil spill occurred after the Napocor Power Barge 103 was dislodged from its mount by strong waves when super typhoon "Yolanda" hit the province on November 8.

The local government has since enforced a compulsory evacuation of residents in the coastal town.