The Effects of Cigarette Toxins – Benzene

This is the second part of our review of the dangers of smoking. For our first blog on this subject please click here. In the next several blogs, we will discuss the origins and health effects of the more dangerous chemicals found in cigarette tobacco and its fillers. These include carcinogens and toxins such as benzene, arsenic, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide, ammonia, and many others.



Benzene is a carcinogen found in pesticides and crude oil that is considered to be responsible for leukemia in smokers (cancer of white blood cells). In a 2013 study at the University of Minnesota, researchers found that incidents of myeloid leukemia increase and decrease directly with increasing and decreasing smoking frequency.[1] This implies that smoking can contribute to the development of leukemia. Another study in 1987 demonstrated that people in contact with benzene are 7 times more likely to develop leukemia than people who are not.[2]

A 1997 study published in Toxicology and Industrial Health found that benzene can also contribute to low hemoglobin levels in blood.[3] Hemoglobin is the molecule that red blood cells use to carry oxygen to all the cells of the body. Less hemoglobin means less oxygen, and cells cannot produce as much energy if they do not have a strong supply of oxygen. Obviously, this can lead to symptoms of fatigue, exhaustion, and anemia. The study also found that neutrophil levels were higher in workers exposed to benzene inhalation. Neutrophils are a type of immune cell that absorb and destroy pathogens. They also release enzymes that destroy toxins, and chemicals that alert other immune cells to danger. Elevated neutrophil levels typically indicate an infection, and this elicitation of an immune response is a sign that benzene is a harmful chemical that your body must fight to remove.

You are exposing yourself to benzene if you smoke cigarettes or inhale second hand smoke. One of the best natural ways to neutralize this toxin is activated charcoal. Once it enters the bloodstream, charcoal binds with any benzene molecules that it encounters. This allows the body to excrete the benzene and charcoal in the urine. Charcoal can also help remove heavy metals from your body. In fact, charcoal and carbon are used by water filters to remove lead, copper, chlorine, and other contaminants. Nature’s Sunshine offers activated charcoal in the form of capsules. Even if you do not plan to quit smoking, taking this supplement is a good way to reduce your chances of developing leukemia as a smoker.

If you have any question about this blog and/or the natural remedies described, feel free to leave your questioni or comment in the section provided below. We love to hear from you.

Our next blog on this subject will focus on arsenic in cigarettes – check back with us soon!

Jeff Riddle and Paul Tsui

[1] Musselman JR, Blair CK, Cerhan JR, Nguyen P, Hirsch B, Ross JA.  “Risk of adult acute and chronic myeloid leukemia with cigarette smoking and cessation.” Cancer Epidemiology. August 2013.

[2] S N Yin, G L Li, F D Tain, Z I Fu, C Jin, Y J Chen, S J Luo, P Z Ye, J Z Zhang, G C Wang. “Leukaemia in benzene workers: a retrospective cohort study.” Br Journal of Independent Medicine. 1987.

[3] Bogadi-Sare A1, Turk R, Karacić V, Zavalić M, Trutin-Ostović K. “Red blood cell glycerol lysis and hematologic effects in occupational benzene exposure.” Toxicology and Industrial Health. 1997 Jul-Aug;13(4):485-94.

The information provided here has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is for education purpose only and not meant to replace medical advise. As always, if you smoke and suffer any of the symptoms described you should go to your medical physician as soon as you can.


Posted by Paul

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