Exposure to benzene in gas stations: strategy for integrated actions in Occupational Health Surveillance in Região dos Vales, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Abstract Introduction: Benzene is an important source of environmental and occupational contamination and may cause poisoning to gas station workers. Objective: to report the benzene exposure surveillance experience carried out by the Centro de Referência em Saúde do Trabalhador (Occupational Health Reference Center) of Região dos Vales, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Methods: surveillance activities included regional mapping of gas stations, intrasectoral, intersectoral and inter-institutional actions, workplace inspections, development of a specific interventional instrument for this productive branch, and other approaches aiming to intervene in benzene exposure environments. Results: we observed alterations in biomarkers of effect and of exposure, besides companies inadequacies in clinical and laboratory monitoring of workers. In the work processes and the work environments inspected, situations that enlarged exposure were evident: inadequacies in fuel supply lanes, use of cloth strip for fuel leakage absorbance during tank filling, lack or shortage of collective protection measures, absence of volume electronic measurement of the storage tanks and absence of work cloths washing by the companies, among others. Conclusion: experiences unleashed through integrated actions in the health sector demonstrated the beneficial potentiality of the benzene exposure surveillance in gas stations.