Benzene may still be used by old-timey bookbinders to remove gold, because they often work in isolation and are not likely to have heard what a serious health hazard it is. Readers of this Newsletter are much more likely to have heard; in fact, only two of the 49 readers responding to the reader survey in October 1983 mentioned benzene. (Over 100 chemicals and commercial compounds were reported, of which the most popular was thymol, and the next most popular, toluene and acetone, tied for second place.)
Both users and nonusers nay be interested to know that OSHA has lowered the Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) for benzene from 10 to 1 part per million (PPM), effective Dec. 10 for all industries covered by OSHA, including conservation laboratories. For a free copy of the Standard, giving required safety measures and allowable exclusions, contact OSHA Office of Publications, U.S. Department of Labor, Rm. N-3101, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20210 (202/523-9667).