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benzeneA volatile, flammable hydrocarbon by-product of destructive coal distillation, which is present in coal tar; it is the simplest aromatic compound. Benzene is an organic solvent, and is both toxic—in particular to mucocutaneous surfaces—and carcinogenic; chronic exposure to benzene is linked to bone marrow depression, aplastic anaemia, and acute myelogenous leukaemia, one-fourth of which are preceded by pancytopenia and/or peripheral neuropathies.
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