The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously yesterday to ban the chemical benzene, a move that could end sales of such items as paint removers, rubber cements, varnish, wood stains, and some household cleaners.
The action becomes effective only after a public comment period, and hearings expected to be held in June. It probably will be fail before the ban becomes law.
The ban covers consumer products in which benzene is used intentionally as an ingredient.It forbids production of substances with more than one-tenth percent benzene content.
Entering the body primarily by inhalation, benzene can cause leukemia and other blood disorders, according to medical researchers.
A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health called benzene the cause of an increased incidence of leukemia in persons with a history of benzene exposure.
Use of benzene is declining, according to CPSC staffers, and press release from the agency stated: "Any burden placed on manufacturers and consumers because of the ban is expected to be minimal because a wide range of substitute chemicals are available."
The CPSC ban does not cover gasoline because the commission believes that exposure from benzene present in gasoline is a "complex interagency problem"
The Health Research Group, a Ralph Nader organization, petitioned the agency for the ban a year ago, and yesterday said that the long delay before the CPSC called for the ban may have caused additional cases of cancer.
"If the commission had banned benzene at the time of our petition, many people would not have gotten luekemia," said Dr. Didney Wolfe, director of the consumer group. "These cases of leukemia and bone marrow depression are the result of sluggard action by the commission,' he added.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration tried to impliment a similar ban on benzene used inwork places, but that action has been stalled by a lawsuit filed by an industry group.