Sources and Dangers of Benzene and Benzopyrene

grilling food

Grilling season is almost here! There is something important I think you should know before you start roasting marshmallows and hot dogs over a campfire or fire up that grill.

Grilled food develops benzopyrenes that are very toxic. Benzopyrene is naturally emitted by forest fires and volcanic eruptions, and can also be found in coal tar, wood smoke, and is the major carcinogen present in cigarette smoke and evidence exists that links benzopyrene to the formation of lung cancer. Benzopyrene is in burnt foods such as coffee. Fumes that develop from fat dripping on blistering charcoal are rich in benzopyrene, which can condense on grilled foods. Benzopyrene is also made when food is toasted and smoked or cooked using direct flame heat. Hot dogs and lunch meats with "smoked flavor" have benzopyrene. It doesn't matter what kind of fuel is used, the benzopyrene develop due to lack of shielding between the food and the high heat source. A metal wall shields food from the heat. Aluminum foil is not a healthy option, because aluminum is a heavy metal that goes to the brain. Never bake or brown above 425 degrees. Temperatures are much higher in a microwave oven and can produce benzopyrenes.

Benzopyrene is harmful because it forms carcinogenic and mutagenic metabolites which insert into DNA and interfere with genetic information, represented by a sequence of DNA nucleotides, being copied into newly synthesized molecules of RNA, with the DNA serving as a template. The mechanism of action of benzopyrene-related DNA modification has been investigated extensively and relates to the activity of cytochrome P450.

Numerous medications, nutrients, and herbal therapies are metabolized through the cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzyme system. In the intestine, not the liver, the CYP1A1 detoxification mechanism depends on TOLL-like receptor 2 (TLR2) that plays a role in the immune system. TLR2 is expressed by intestinal epithelial cells and subsets of lamina propria mononuclear cells (located under the basement membrane of the intestinal villi, between the columnar epithelial cells and lymphoid nodules embedded in the gut wall and Peyer’s patches) in the gastrointestinal tract and recognizes pathogens (bacteria, fungus, viruses), human waste products and foreign substances, passing appropriate signals to the innate immune system. The permeable intestinal lining selectively lets into the body the nutrients and chemicals it needs, while keeping out what is toxic.

Leaky gut occurs when the spaces between the intestinal epithelial cells separate, allowing the waste products of digestion, pathogens large and small, heavy metals and other toxic substances to pass through the spaces in the gut wall, directly into the blood stream. This very common problem occurs in a wide variety of clinical situations and is the reason for an incredibly high incidence of chronic symptoms and diseases today, because it is the beginning of disease. With the high incidence of leaky gut syndrome in chronic diseases, it seems logical to test for intestinal permeability in patients first, before making a diagnosis, prescribing medications or a diet.

In healthy intestines, the first phase of detoxification, which involves the cytochrome P450 oxidative enzyme system, converts some of the toxic load into substances that have free radical activity as well as carcinogenic properties. TLR2 regulates the expression of CYP1A1, which is a key enzyme in the detoxification of carcinogenic hydrocarbons, such as benzopyrene. The hydroxylation of benzopyrene by CYP1A1 catalyzes it into epoxide and further oxidizes it to form dihydrodiol, which is then catalyzed to form the ultimate carcinogen. CYP1A1 metabolism of various foreign agents to carcinogens has been implicated in the formation of various types of human cancer.

Phase 1 of the CYP1A1 system can be inhibited or induced by drugs. Drugs that induce CPY450 can increase the rate of another drug’s metabolism 2-3 fold. Drugs are chemicals, not any different in their metabolism than other chemicals. A medication that inhibits CYP450 metabolism can increase and possibly result in a harmful or adverse effect. Once altered, CYP1A1 can be clinically significant in the development of drug-drug interactions that may cause unanticipated adverse reactions or therapeutic failures. The deterioration of the intestinal epithelium into a condition known as Leaky Gut would also affect the function of this system. The chemical cocktail that leaks into the blood stream becomes a nightmare for the liver.

The solvent that does the most harm is benzene, which is classed as a hydrocarbon and the byproduct of the incomplete combustion of a variety of materials. The major sources of benzene exposure are tobacco smoke, automobile service stations, exhaust from motor vehicles, and industrial emissions, but also from ingestion and dermal absorption. Benzene is found in extremely allergic people. Benzene in an intermediate used to make other chemicals. The horrors of manufactured products is that they are especially toxic because of the solvents used to extract flavors and colors. Also, traces of solvents used to sterilize equipment are picked up and become part of the final product during the manufacturing process. Benzene is widespread in extremely small amounts. However, when benzopyrenes are added to a system with benzene, the total is entirely too much for the liver and benzene begins to accumulate in the thymus.

As long as the second phase of detoxification can quickly metabolize this load of free radicals and carcinogens by their chemical conjugation with glycine, glutathione, glucuronide, or sulfate by a healthy liver, there is no problem. These inert conjugated products are simply secreted into the bile, which then pass into the stool, and are excreted from the body. However, when the reserve capacity of this phase two system is exhausted, the liver cannot keep up with the task of metabolizing the high amount of free radicals and carcinogens. They overflow and cause damage locally, but also leak into general circulation, where they travel systemically through out the body and create profound biochemical damage in distant organs.

Parasites are all around us and we pick them up daily. Humans hold no superior status in the animal world and parasites view us as weak prey to feed on. All the organisms that predispose to disease are already in us. They have accumulated over a lifetime. Just like with other animals, parasites are kept in check by an ever vigilant immune system. However, when the intestinal wall and system fails, these invaders travel to their favorite organs, set up house and cause disease. Parasites are doing abnormal things in the presence of solvents, like benzene.

The thymus is extremely sensitive to benzene and with so much it in our products and foods, benzene will accumulate there. Benzene invites the intestinal fluke to use the thymus as its secondary host, ruins the immune system and sets the stage for AIDS. Benzene is found in 100% of HIV cases with reproduction of intestinal fluke stages in the thymus. Without benzene and the intestinal fluke in your body, you can't get HIV / AIDS.

Benzene exposure increases the risk of cancer and other illnesses, and is also a notorious cause of bone marrow failure. Many epidemiological, clinical, and laboratory tests link benzene to aplastic anemia, acute leukemia, and bone marrow abnormalities. Benzene goes to the bone marrow where T-cells are made, and to the thymus where T-cells are programmed, which are two huge blows to the immune system. As the thymus deteriorates from its benzene burden so does immunity. Benzene also targets liver, kidney, lung, heart and the brain and can cause DNA strand breaks, chromosomal damage, etc.

The US Department of Health and Human Services classifies benzene as a human carcinogen, “It is generally considered that the only absolutely safe concentration for benzene is zero.” There is no safe exposure level and even tiny amounts can cause harm. Long-term exposure to levels that exceed 1 ppm of benzene in the air causes leukemia, a potentially fatal cancer of the blood-forming organs. IARC rated benzene as "known to be carcinogenic to humans". The specific malignancies that benzene is associated with include: acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute non-lymphocytic leukemia (ANLL), aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).

With so many polluted items, the detoxification capacity of the liver is easily maxed-out. Niacin or Niacin-amide and Vitamin B2 help the liver detoxify benzene and benzopyrene.

People trying to recover their health cannot afford any future solvent intake. Avoiding benzene and benzopyrene, as well as all other toxins and solvents, and cleansing the body of parasites helps the thymus recover and immunity returns.

Products that contain benzene include:

  • Flavored foods, yogurt, JELL-O, candies, throat lozenges, store bought cookies, cakes
  • Cooking oil and shortening (not olive oil, butter and lard)
  • Commercial beverages, bottled water, fruit juice
  • Toothpaste, including health brands
  • Cold cereal, including health brands
  • Ice cream and frozen yogurt
  • Hand cream, skin cream, moisturizers
  • Chewing gum
  • Vaseline products, chapstick, hand cleaners
  • Vitamins and health supplements
  • Personal lubricant, including condoms
  • Rubber cement, a component of gasoline due to its high octane number, pesticides, drugs, detergents, dyes
  • Tea Tree oil (except Thursday Plantation brand)

Other immune-lowering toxins include:
  • Alfa toxins and Mycotoxins from molds in food
  • Acetone in carbonated beverages and paint
  • Carbon tetrachloride in store bought drinking water
  • Decane in health foods and beverages
  • Hexanes and Pentane in decafs
  • Hexanedione and Isophorone in flavored foods
  • Isopropyl or propyl alcohol in bottled water, commercial fruit juices and beverages, shampoo
  • Methyl butyl ketone and Methyl ethyl ketone in flavored foods
  • Methylene chloride in fruit juice
  • Toluene and Xylene in carbonated beverages
  • Trichloroethane (TCE) and TC Ethylene in flavored foods
  • Wood alcohol (methanol) in carbonated drinks, diet beverages, herb tea blends, store-bought water and infant formula

Looking beyond the obvious takes time, energy, insight and fortitude, yet that is what I am passionate about and called to do. When the subject of health and disease comes up, most people run the other way or just ignore the conversation all together. I am a tireless researcher. The answers to many health and disease questions are clear and simple, but the modern medical model looks for the complex and mysterious, which rarely ever reveals the true causes of disease.

If you have questions, I am here for you. Call 301-293-1500 or email to schedule your free introductory consultation.

I look forward to serving you.
Johnna Wheeler
Certified Eating Psychology Coach