If you have developed leukemia or another illness due to benzene exposure, here are some facts and tips on how this could have happened to you and what you can do to protect yourself from further exposure. If you were exposed to benzene at work, you may be entitled to receive workers' compensation, and you may also be able to sue a third-party (someone besides your employer) for the damage to your health and your life. If you were exposed to benzene outside of work, you may be able to receive compensation for being exposed to such a dangerous chemical due to carelessness. We can help.What is Benzene?
Benzene is a chemical found in nature that is also produced and used by human industries. It is known to have a negative impact on human health and is produced by many common industries, as well as gasoline, car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and Fracking, which is becoming more and more controversial for the dangerous chemicals it uses. It is naturally found in crude oil, gasoline, and coal, and is naturally produced by volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is made primarily from crude oil, but is also made from coal in some cases, and is a byproduct of many industries such as the steel industry.
Benzene is used in the production of many products, including other chemicals, gasoline, plastic, nylon and other synthetic fibers. It is an important ingredient in gasoline since it contains high octane which is needed for gasoline. Currently, about half of the world's benzene supply is consumed in Asia and the Pacific.How Does Benzene Affect People?
Benzene is dangerous to almost all living things. It can have short term effects on people who are exposed to high concentrations of benzene in the air, in food or drink that has been contaminated with benzene, or if absorbed through the skin. Benzene can also have long-term effects if exposure is repeated over time.Short-Term Benzene Exposure Effects
The short term effects of benzene in high concentrations can come from inhaling, eating, drinking or skin exposure to the chemical, and these effects are seen in the central nervous system.
The short-term effects of inhaling benzene include:
- Becoming dizzy or drowsy
If a person experiences these symptoms and does not remove themselves from the concentration of benzene and seek medical attention, they may die from the exposure.
Consuming benzene in contaminated food or drink can lead to:
- Increased heart rate
- Upset stomach
And similar to inhaling benzene, if a person is experiencing these symptoms and does not stop the consumption of benzene and seek medical attention, they can die. This can be especially dangerous if people do not know that they are eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
If benzene is in contact with a person's skin or eyes, it can cause irritation and sores. If enough benzene is absorbed through the skin, any of the above listed symptoms may be felt.Long-Term Benzene Exposure Effects
The long-term effects of benzene exposure are varied and complicated. Repeated exposure to benzene can lead to:
- Increased risk of cancer, normally leukemia
- Increased risk of bone marrow failure
- Other diseases
Benzene can also destroy a person's internal organs including:
- Reproductive organs
Birth defects have also been observed in relation to benzene exposure including spina bifida (a condition where the spine is incomplete.)
Problems with maintaining healthy levels in the blood can be caused by a failing bone marrow system which is a result of benzene exposure. Symptoms include:
- Low numbers of red blood cells (known as anemia) which makes a person tired and weak
- Low numbers of white blood cells which makes fighting illness much more difficult
- Low numbers of blood platelets which reduces a person's ability to stop bleeding and heal cuts
If you believe you have been exposed to benzene over time, you should seek medical assistance or contact us so that we can help you find the resources you need to deal with long-term benzene exposure.How do People get Exposed to Benzene?
Exposure at Work
Workers who are involved in industries that use benzene may be exposed to high concentrations of benzene without ever knowing it.
Some industries that are known to use benzene are:
- Oil producers and refineries
- Gasoline producers, distributors, and gas stations
- Chemical producers
- Plastics producers
- Steel workers
- Rubber producers
- Shoe manufacturers
- Producers of drugs, pesticides, dyes, detergents, and lubricants
- Lab workers
The government does regulate levels of benzene that a worker can be exposed to. The limit is one part-per-million for a normal work day, or five parts-per-million in a fifteen minute period. If the levels of benzene exceed these limits, the employer is required by The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to provide a respirator or other protective equipment.
Even people who do not work in industries that use benzene may be exposed to the harmful chemical. If people live near industries that use benzene they may have benzene in the air they breathe every day, or it may end up contaminating their water or food.
Other sources of benzene exposure in everyday life include:
- Exposure to gas fumes, paint, art supplies, solvents, glues etc.
- Cigarette smoke and 2nd hand smoke
- Water or food that may be contaminated with benzene
- Exposure to high amounts of car exhaust
If you work in one of the industries listed above and you are concerned about being exposed to benzene you should talk to your boss about whether or not your company uses benzene or creates benzene as a byproduct of their work. Personal equipment to protect employees from benzene exposure may be provided, or the place you are employed at may even be able to use a less harmful chemical to do the work they normally do. If this is difficult to do in the place where you work, contact OSHA for more information or an inspection.
If you wish to avoid benzene exposure in everyday life, here are some tips to help:
- Avoid inhaling gasoline fumes while pumping gas
- Avoid inhaling exhaust from gasoline
- Avoid being in a place around products that contain benzene (listed above) unless well ventilated
- Avoid skin contact with any of these products
- Avoid cigarettes and 2nd hand smoke
In short-term cases, leave the area immediately. If any of your clothes may have benzene on them, remove them immediately, wash any parts of your body that may have benzene on them and seek immediate medical attention.
If you believe you have been exposed to benzene over time you should get tested by a doctor to find out if there are high levels of benzene in your blood.
If either of these takes place you should contact a benzene exposure lawyer to find out what your rights are for recovering from this type of injury. Our attorneys will do a free case review to help you find out what you can do to get everything you deserve for your injury.