Doses of benzene in drinking water necessary to induce exposure-related health effects in terrestrial animals following acute ingestions would typically be in the range of 60-150 ppm under most environmental contamination situations. Threshold levels of acute lethal effect to aquatic animals generally range from 3 to 20 ppm. To put this into environmental perspective, if all of the benzene produced in the US in 2000 were spilled and evenly distributed into Lake Michigan or Lake Erie, water concentrations would be c. 1.6 and 16.7 ppm, respectively. Although benzene may represent a significant health risk to humans under high exposure or occupational scenarios, concern surrounding benzene ecotoxicity is generally limited to situations of chemical spillage or leakage from storage vessels near aquatic ecosystems. Concern is further diminished by the ecological disposition of benzene, which causes this compound to readily migrate from contaminated soils and water into the atmosphere. Atmospheric degradation and microbial biogradation of benzene further reduce the toxic potential of this widely distributed industrial compound.
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