Benzoic acid, aka benzoate or E210, is a colourless organic crystalline solid, with the chemical formula of C6H5COOH. It has a faint but pleasant odour and is soluble in water. [1,2,3]
Benzoic acid is used across various applications in a range of industries. It is used as an antimicrobial preservative in food and beverages. It is also used in the manufacture of plastics, dyes, insect repellents and various other cosmetics. Benzoic acid is an ingredient in the industrial production of phenol.
Routes of Exposure 
Routes of exposure include inhalation and skin/eye contact.
Benzoic acid poisoning affects a range of systems, including the integumentary and respiratory systems.
Acute Effects 
Severity of symptoms depend on the level and type of exposure.
Inhalation of the acid may result in irritation of the respiratory tract, resulting in coughing, red itching eyes, runny nose and eyes and a sore throat. For those who already have impaired respiratory functions, inhalation of this acid may cause further damage. Ingestion of benzoic acid may be fatal. Skin contact could result in dermatitis, characterised by swelling and redness. The acid could also cause systemic injury if it gets into the bloodstream. Eye contact could result in ocular lesions.
Chronic Effects 
Chronic exposure to benzoic acid is toxic to multiple body systems. Long term exposure to the acid can result in disease of the airway, including difficulty breathing. Limited research has found that long-term occupational exposure to this acid can result in cumulative health effects. Symptoms can be activated by a variety of environmental triggers, including smoke, perfume, and exhaust.
First Aid Measures 
Ingestion: DO NOT induce vomiting, and contact a medical professional IMMEDIATELY.
- Skin contact: Remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories. Do not re-wear clothing until it has been thoroughly decontaminated. Immediately rinse affected areas with plenty of soap and water. For the different types of burns, read the SDS on benzoic acid. Contact a doctor immediately.
- Eye contact: Flush eyes (including under the eyelids), with fresh running water for at least 15 minutes. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by skilled personnel. Contact a medical professional immediately. For thermal burns, DO NOT remove contact lens. Pad both eyes, making sure the dressing does not touch the injured eye.
- Inhalation: If the person inhales fumes, remove them from the contaminated site. Prostheses, such as false teeth, should be removed prior to first aid procedures, as they may block airways. Perform CPR if you are qualified and if the patient is unconscious and not breathing. Use a one-way valve and mask if possible. Immediately contact a medical professional.
- General: Never administer anything by mouth to an unconscious, exposed person.
Exposure Controls/Personal Protection 
Engineering controls: Emergency eyewash fountains and quick-drench areas should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure. Ensure there is adequate ventilation.
- Personal protection: Safety glasses with side shields or chemical goggles, protective and dustproof clothing, gloves, a P.V.C apron and an appropriate mask or dusk respirator. Do not wear contact lenses as they could absorb chemicals in the air. Wear impervious shoes. Other protection could overalls. For specifications regarding other PPE, follow the guidelines set in your jurisdiction.
A Time Weighted Average (TWA) concentration limit of 0.5mg/m3 for benzoic acid has been set.
There is no TWA set for benzoic acid in Australia.