Introduction Pathogenicity of benzene was identified in the late nineteenth century. The number and kinds of morbidities related to this substance has been growing ever since due to their continuous and intensive use and the clinical and epidemiological investigations carried along during this period. The trajectory of the use of this substance and related findings of diseases caused by benzene occupational exposition combined with the progressive displacement of typical activities on steel, petrochemical, chemical and oil industry from core countries to peripherals was recovered.
Methods A historic review was conducted to build a narrative capable of revealing connexions between globalisation and disease prevention in peripheral countries. Scientific literature was used for international experience. Brazilian experience was reviewed by official documents and local investigations.
Results Several situations repeated themselves in countries of later industrialization. Benzene exposure can be divided in four periods. First one with little use and almost without reported cases. A second when use of benzene increases significantly and exposure is more important: this is a moment in which several cases of bone marrow aplasia were reported; in Brazil, in spite of high levels of exposure, diagnosis are practically absent. A third with prohibition of benzene in solvents and a reduction in environmental concentrations, but at levels relatively high and a change in the morbid-mortality pattern with leukaemia being very valued. In the fourth period occupational exposure are even more reduced and environmental exposure to Volatile Organic Components, group in which benzene is included, turns to be a marked discussion, approaching definitively these two questions. Haematological cancer becomes the most important discussion then.
Conclusion Peripheral countries have impact with technology transfers but are not able to perform adequate health surveillance as should be required especially with regard to the diagnosis and follow-up of sick workers
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