Benzene is an organic compound that is a colorless or light-yellow liquid that has a relatively high melting point. The word benzene derives historically from gum benzoin, sometimes called benjamin.
It is highly flammable, has a sweet odor and quickly evaporates into air. Its vapor is heavier than air, which makes it sink into low-lying areas. Benzene dissolves only slightly in water and floats on top of it.
Benzene is formed from both natural and man-made processes. Natural sources include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural constituent of crude oil and gasoline. Its most widely-produced derivatives include styrene, which is used to make polymers and plastics, phenol for resins and adhesives and cyclohexane, which is used to manufacture Nylon.
About 80% of benzene is consumed in the production of three chemicals, ethylbenzene, cumene, and cyclohexane. Its most widely produced derivative is ethylbenzene, precursor to styrene, which is used to make polymers and plastics.