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Did you know one of the most widely used chemicals in the United States is classified as carcinogenic to humans? Benzene is a colorless or light yellow liquid chemical that is highly flammable. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies benzene as a carcinogen, or cancerous to humans.

How is Benzene Used?

Benzene, one of the top 20 chemicals for production volume, is a starting material in making other chemicals, including lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. It is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. Other uses involving benzene include:

  • Burning coal and oil
  • Making plastics and resins
  • Painting
  • Dry cleaning
  • Making nylon and synthetic fibers

Benzene Linked to Serious Health Effects

Exposure to this toxic chemical has the potential to cause a range of side effects, which can be acute, chronic, and even deadly.

The overexposure of benzene has the potential to disrupt the standard functions of cells and cause them to malfunction. In fact, the blood receives the major effect of benzene from long-term exposure of a year or more. Benzene also causes adverse effects on the bone marrow and prevents the bone marrow from making enough red blood cells. These effects can lead to anemia, a condition that presents when there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissue.

In addition, benzene can change blood levels of antibodies and cause the loss of white blood cells. This damages the immune system, increasing the chance of infection.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, whose goal is to identify causes of cancer, reveals that based on sufficient evidence, benzene causes acute myelogenous leukemia. Acute Myelogenous Leukemia is a slowly developing and aggressive disease of the blood and bone marrow.

Some of the other cancers linked with benzene include the following:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)
  • Aplastic anemia

Other Effects Associated with Benzene Exposure

Some women who were occupationally exposed to benzene suffered a decrease in the size of the ovaries as well as menstrual problems. Additional side effects associated with benzene exposure include:

  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Excessive bruising
  • Weakness
  • Reduced tolerance to exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Infection and fever
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Enlarged spleen, lymph nodes and liver

Where are People Exposed to Benzene?

Benzene exposure can come from both industrial and natural sources. However, people who work in industries that make or use benzene such as oil refineries, rubber industries, chemical plants, shoe manufacturers, coke manufacturing, gasoline-related industries, or steel plants face the highest level of benzene exposure.  In fact, approximately 3 million workers in the United States risk exposure to benzene every year at the workplace.

Breathing in air that contains benzene is the most common way people are exposed. Indoor air typically contains higher levels of benzene compared to outdoor air. When considering outdoor exposure to benzene, be cautious around hazardous waste sites or gas stations as these areas can contain higher levels of benzene than other areas.

Benzene can also be absorbed through the skin during contact with a source such as gasoline. However, because liquid benzene evaporates quickly, this type of exposure is far less common.

Smoking cigarettes and second-hand smoke are important contributors to benzene exposure. In fact, half of the exposure to benzene in the United States comes from cigarette smoke.

Does Benzene Exposure Always Cause Harm?

Many factors will determine if someone who was exposed to benzene is harmed because of it. This includes:

  • The amount of exposure
  • The duration of the exposure
  • The way the individual came in contact with the chemical (through the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, across the skin) and
  • Any pre-existing medical conditions

Federal and state regulations have decreased exposure limits of benzene at the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitors and regulates benzene exposure in industrial settings to help protect workers from suffering harm caused by this hazardous chemical.

Immediate Signs and Symptoms from Being Exposed to Benzene

Breathing in high levels of benzene may cause the following signs and symptoms within minutes to several hours:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death (at very high levels)

If you are experiencing any of these benzene exposure symptoms mentioned, it is important that you contact your doctor. Doctors use several tests to measure benzene levels in your blood, breath, or urine to determine overexposure to benzene. However, these tests must be performed shortly after exposure for accuracy.

How Can I Avoid Benzene Exposure?

The best thing you can do to avoid benzene exposure is to not smoke tobacco. Even if you don’t smoke tobacco, you should also do your best to avoid secondhand smoke. In addition, you can limit your exposure to gasoline fumes and vehicle exhaust.

If you are exposed to benzene at work regularly, check with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information on how to protect yourself in the workplace and what to do if you’ve been exposed to benzene.

How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

Here at The Carlson Law Firm, we understand that when a loved one is injured, the entire family is affected. In many workplace injury cases, the injured person is the breadwinner of the family. Filing a benzene exposure injury claim can help the injured and their families recover for their losses including past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering and more.

If you or a loved one was exposed to benzene and are suffering from a benzene-caused illness from long-term exposure, we want to help. Our qualified benzene legal team has the experience and skills to help you navigate the complex legal system and will work tirelessly to get the results you need to move forward with your life. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We care, and we can help.

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