As with all modern disasters, getting to the truth is not an easy task. First, people along the Gulf Coast were told that BP and the EPA had placed benzene monitors along the Alabama and Florida coasts, and that there was no indication of any VOCs. A senior reporter from WEAR-TV, an ABC affiliate in Pensacola, was unable to find any air-quality monitors in that area.
Several studies have found there is no threshold for carcinogenesis — that is, a level of benzene exposure at which lower levels are nontoxic. It appears that benzene is toxic at all levels and with chronic exposure — especially in people with certain genetic weaknesses — cancer is likely to develop.
Symptoms from VOCs are many times mistaken for other forms of illnesses, but generally they include headaches, dizziness, nausea, eye irritation, coughing, shortness of breath, nasal irritation, and multiple chemical sensitivity. Some of the gases have an odor, but others are odorless.