Benzene Exposure: Risks, Health Impacts, and Legal Options

By: Jennifer Emmons, Esq. & James Goslee, Esq.

Feb 20, 2024 –

Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon that is naturally found in crude oil and gasoline. This seemingly innocuous colorless liquid poses profound dangers to exposed individuals. Benzene exposure is the killer that you don’t see coming. Unlike certain chemicals that have a foul odor that you almost instinctively want to avoid, benzene has a sweet odor that fools people into thinking it is not harmful.

From its origins in various industrial processes to its presence in everyday products, benzene lurks as a silent threat to human health. Comprehensively exploring its multifaceted nature is necessary to understand its perils, navigate its health impacts, and seek legal recourse for those affected.

The Genesis of Benzene Exposure

Crude oil and gasoline naturally contain benzene, numerous industries use benzene as a component chemical to make plastics, rubber, synthetic fibers, and other materials. Manufacturing companies use it as a component in certain industrial solvents used for cleaning, and in certain industrial adhesives and glues. Even when benzene is not added to a product, benzene is also found in other chemicals that are used to make products.

Workers in manufacturing plants, refineries, automotive service, printing companies and some occupational painters face heightened risks due to regular benzene exposure. It is a component that can be found in products used by automotive mechanics to clean and repair. It can be found in liquid solvents that are used by various types of workers to remove grease and rust from cars and machines, or in adhesives and glues used to repair pipes and machines. It can also be found in paint strippers/removers and varnishes.

But it’s not just confined to industrial settings—consumers may unwittingly encounter benzene in cigarette smoke, automobile emissions, and certain household products.

Delving Into the Health Impacts of Benzene Exposure

The insidious nature of benzene lies in its ability to alter a person’s DNA. Benzene metabolizes in the body and can negatively affect hematopoietic stem cells, which are cells that are found in our bone marrow that control production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Benzene can damage the hematopoietic stem cells by causing an overproduction of oncogenic cells, potential cancer-causing cells.  It can also cause the body to produce less cells that fight cancer.

Benzene’s most notorious effect manifests in blood disorders, as benzene impairs the bone marrow’s ability to produce vital components such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This disruption can lead to debilitating and life-threatening conditions like anemia and thrombocytopenia, and it can also cause conditions that impair the body’s ability to fight off disease.

However, the sinister reach of benzene extends beyond hematological disorders. It is a well-established carcinogen, with leukemia being its most dangerous and life-threatening consequence. Workers in benzene-exposed industries or workers using products that contain benzene face an elevated risk of developing certain types of leukemia and lymphoma, particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood-forming cells. The correlation between benzene exposure and leukemia incidence underscores the urgent need for stringent safety measures and heightened awareness among workers and employers alike.

Legal Avenues for Those Affected by Benzene Exposure

Many workers and individuals who have been diagnosed with a benzene-related cancer or disease are not even aware that benzene could be the cause of their disease.  All those individuals know is that they have a disease that threatens their life. They have a disease that forces them to endure rounds of chemotherapy and possible surgery for stem cell transplants to replace the damaged cells with healthy cells.

In the aftermath of being diagnosed with cancer or another disease caused by benzene exposure, pursuing legal recourse can provide people with a sense of justice that their pain and suffering has not been in vain. Whether the exposure occurred in the workplace, through consumer products, or environmental contamination, there are ways for the victims of benzene to seek justice.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulations

OSHA regulations mandate employers to provide safe working environments, free from hazardous substances like benzene. Failure to adhere to these standards can result in severe penalties and liability for ensuing damages. Workers have the right to report unsafe conditions and seek redress for harm caused by benzene exposure in the workplace.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

Victims of benzene exposure can explore personal injury lawsuits against negligent parties, be it product manufacturers/distributers/sellers, property owners, or entities responsible for environmental pollution. Proving liability necessitates a meticulous examination of evidence, expert testimony, and legal precedent. An experienced attorney specializing in toxic tort litigation can offer invaluable guidance, advocating for the rights and interests of those afflicted by benzene-induced cancer and other blood disorders.

Navigating the Complexities of Benzene Exposure

Empowering individuals with knowledge forms the cornerstone of combating benzene exposure. Awareness of its pervasive presence, recognition of associated health risks, and familiarity with legal avenues serve as potent tools in safeguarding against its insidious effects.

Implementing robust safety protocols in workplaces, advocating for stringent regulatory measures, and holding accountable those companies that prioritize profits over public health and safety represent crucial steps towards mitigating benzene’s detrimental impact on society.

Forging a Path Forward From Benzene Exposure

Manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of products containing benzene have, for decades, failed to warn consumers of the presence and significant danger of benzene. Workers using benzene containing products are particularly vulnerable because most do not know that benzene is in these products and are unaware that benzene is so toxic.

The journey from vulnerability to vindication for an individual harmed by benzene is fraught with challenges and uncertainties. Yet, the hope for justice for those whose lives have been irrevocably altered by benzene is real.  As we navigate the complexities of this multifaceted issue, let us remain steadfast in our pursuit of a safer, healthier future for workers in all occupations that are at risk for benzene exposure.

Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth

Victims and their loved ones that have been harmed by benzene exposure deserve compensation. Our team of lawyers champions and seeks justice for our clients, guided by a shared goal of doing what’s right and making a positive lasting impact on their lives.

If you have a question or would like to consult with us on your benzene claim, please don’t hesitate to contact our lawyers to handle your case today.