At 20 0C, benzene is a liquid that floats on water and is very volatile. Characterized by
moderate solubility, it will volatilize rapidly once dissolved and adsorbs moderately to organic
matter. In soil, pure benzene can be found as either a solid or liquid (melting point of 5 0C).
During a spill, this compound will partially evaporate but may also enter into the soil or migrate
into a waterway. Benzene can accumulate in its liquid state (or solid) at the capillary fringe of
groundwater or create a film on the water surface which will promote its solubilization and
volatilization. The adsorbed benzene in the vadose and saturated zones will rapidly disappear,
liberating contamination in either the gaseous (primarily) or dissolved state. The resulting plumes
(gaseous or dissolved) will be relatively large in size.
Benzene is produced through petroleum refining, coal tar distillation, coal processing,
coal coking and solvent recovery. In Canada, benzene is used primarily for the production of
ethylbenzene (an intermediate in the synthesis of styrene, which is used to make plastics and
elastomers), cumene (used to produce phenol and acetone), and cyclohexane (used to make nylon
Benzene is also used as a solvent for fats, inks, oils, greases, resins and paints, and in the
manufacture of plastics, synthetic rubbers, detergents, explosives, textiles, packing materials,
disinfectants, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and dyestuffs. Benzene is found in gasoline, gasohol, No.
2 fuel oil, aviation fuels, diesel fuel, and new and used motor oil.