If you or a loved one has been exposed to Benzene and have suffered harm, you might qualify for financial compensation through environmental litigation.
What is Benzene?
Benzene is a colorless, sweet-smelling flammable liquid that evaporates quickly when exposed to air. Although natural sources such as volcanoes and forest fires release some benzene into the environment, most benzene comes from man’s activities.
Used primarily as a solvent and the basis for making other chemicals, benzene is among the 20 most widely used chemicals in the U.S. It is a natural component of crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke.
How Are We Exposed to Benzene?
The primary way we are exposed to benzene is through inhaling contaminated air. Although it can be absorbed through the skin, its rapid evaporation rate makes this a less common route of exposure. The highest amount of exposure has been in the workplace, although federal regulations have greatly reduced this source of benzene contact.
In industry, sources of high levels of benzene occur in:
- The rubber industry
- Oil refineries
- Chemical plants
- Shoe manufacturers
- Gasoline-related industries
- Manufacturing of some lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides
- Steel working plants
- Printing occupations
- Laboratory situations
- Areas where firefighters work
In the community, people are exposed to benzene from:
- Cigarette smoke
- Automobile exhaust
- Factory emissions
- Industrial wastewater
- Art supplies
Cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke are significant sources of our exposure to benzene. In the United States, cigarette smoke constitutes about 50 percent of our exposure to the toxic substance.
Signs and Symptoms of Benzene Exposure
The most immediate signs and symptoms of benzene exposure include:
- Rapid, irregular heartbeat
Symptoms of exposure through eating or drinking include:
- Stomach irritation
- Rapid, irregular heartbeat
Benzene exposure can result in long-term complications, including damage to blood and bone marrow, irregular menstrual periods, decrease in ovary size, leukemia and death.
Benzene Cancer Risk
Benzene is a known carcinogen (cause of cancer). Leukemia and other types of cancers of blood cells have been linked to benzene exposure. The bone marrow cells of both humans and laboratory animals exposed to benzene show chromosomal changes.
Acute Myeloid or Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
Workers in chemical, shoemaking and oil refining industries have higher rates of acute myeloid leukemia. This is a cancer of the myeloid type of blood cells. Abnormal white blood cells grow rapidly and accumulate in the bone marrow. This interferes with the body’s production of normal blood cells. AML moves at a rapid rate, killing patients within weeks or months if it is not treated.
Symptoms of AML include:
- Persistent and frequent infections
- Shortness of breath
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Bone and joint pain
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Petechiae (flat spots the size of pin heads under the skin caused by bleeding)
- Swelling of the gums
There is also some evidence, although it is more limited, of benzene causing acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Getting Legal Help
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer or another condition after being exposed to benzene, you should speak with an attorney about your right to financial compensation. You might be eligible to recover financial compensation for your present and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
To speak with a qualified benzene attorney, contact the law office of Melinda J. Helbock today.