Benzene is widely used in a number of industries and products, yet many people remain unaware of the toxic danger of this chemical substance. Exposure to products containing benzene can cause life-threatening diseases including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), lymphomas and aplastic Anemia.
On-the-job exposure is a particular danger for benzene-related illnesses and injuries. Although benzene is present in the atmosphere in small amounts, people who work in close proximity to benzene or benzene-containing products can be put at serious risk because their exposure can occur at much higher levels and for longer periods of time.
The most common exposure pathway is inhalation, but benzene can also enter the body through skin absorption. Once in the bloodstream, benzene affects the bone marrow and blood forming cells, which in turn damages white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets over time. Exposure to benzene is known to cause a variety of cancers in humans. People across the country working in industries where benzene is present have experienced benzene-related forms of leukemia and lymphoma.
While leukemia and lymphoma can take years to manifest, a person exposed to benzene may feel the immediate effects of dizziness, drowsiness, or even unconsciousness depending on the level of exposure.
Benzene Products and Uses
Benzene exposure can occur where products containing benzene are used, refined or manufactured. Some of those locations include the below:
- Automobile mechanics (due to exposure to fuels, lubricants, brake fluids, etc.)
- Printers (due to exposure to printer solvents containing benzene)
- Floor layers (floors are often treated with chemicals that contain benzene)
- Carpet cleaners (carpet cleaners can contain high levels of benzene)
- Petroleum refining and extraction (petroleum products contain benzene)
- Petroleum product shipping and transport (petroleum products contain benzene)
- Railroad workers, including shop workers, painters, locomotive maintenance (railroad workers come into contact with numerous forms of benzene due to their use of a number of solvents, degreasers, fuels and cleaners)
- Any industry that manufacturers a variety of rubbers, chemicals, leathers, paints, glues, paper, pesticides, resins, drugs, plastics, dyes, detergents, adhesive products, solvents or lubricants
- Any industry that uses oil-based treatments, paints, glues, stains, pesticides, dyes, detergents, lubricants, de-greasers, adhesive products, or solvents
- Steel workers (the steel making process can place workers in direct exposure to benzene)
- Lab technicians (certain chemicals and products used in labs can contain benzene)
- Gasoline-related industries (gas stations, gas offloading, gas transportation, or RAC work)
- Dock and offshore workers
Benzene Health Effects and Cancer
The medical literature is settled that benzene causes AML, or Acute Myeloid Leukemia (also known as Acute Myelogenous Leukemia). There are a variety of AML diagnoses, but all of them have been shown to result from benzene exposure. They include:
- MO Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia with Minimal Differentiation
- M1 Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia without Maturation
- M2 Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia with Granulocytic Maturation
- M3 Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia
- M4 Acute Myelomonocytic Leukemia
- M5 Acute Monocytic Leukemia
- M6 Acute Erthroid Leukemia
- M7 Acute Megakaryoblastic Leukemia
Benzene can also cause Myelodyspastic Syndromes or MDS. MDS encompasses a group of diseases that affect the bone marrow and blood in various ways. There are a variety of different MDS diagnoses and the names constantly change in order to help doctors treat patients, but some forms of MDS include:
- Refractory Anemia with Ringed Siderblasts (RARS)
- Refractory Anemia with Excess Blasts (RAEB)
- Chronic Myelomonycitic Leukemia (CMML)
- Myeloproliferative Disorder
Benzene has also been shown to cause a number of Lymphomas, which are cancers that affect the immune system and cells of the lymphatic system. Some types of Lymphomas include:
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
- Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL)
Finally, benzene is known to cause Aplastic Anemia, which is a condition that affects the bloods cells and can evolve into other forms of blood and bone marrow cancers.
What Should I Do If I Believe Benzene Exposure Caused My Medical Condition?
It can take a number of years before a condition manifests from benzene exposure. Depending on where you live, the statute of limitations could be a real threat to your case, so you should contact a lawyer immediately. If you or a loved one was exposed to benzene and was diagnosed with one of the forms of leukemia or lymphoma listed above, please contact a Beasley Allen attorney for a complimentary, no-cost consultation to learn your legal rights.