What is Benzene?
Benzene is a petroleum-based chemical that is widely used in industrial and commercial manufacturing. It is clear, colorless and highly flammable. It evaporates quickly into the air and can dissolve in water. It is often used to make other chemicals that are used in the production of paints, plastics, dyes, rubber and pesticides, among other things. Benzene is also naturally occurring and can be found in crude oil and gasoline.
How are people exposed to benzene?
Exposure can occur either through inhalation of vapors or ingestion or contact with skin. Tobacco smoke, industrial plant pollution and car emissions all contain benzene. An area such as a gas station will have high levels of evaporated benzene in the air. If a benzene spill occurs, benzene can absorb quickly into the soil. Ingestion of benzene can occur if the water in a community is contaminated because of an industrial spill or if the soil becomes contaminated for some reason such as a leaking storage tank.
Exposure to benzene can occur in the workplace. For railroad workers, exposure can result from use of oil based lubricants and exposure to diesel exhaust or gasoline distribution. Other workers at risk for benzene exposure include delivery workers, painters, printers, farmers who work with pesticides, auto mechanics who work with oil based products and laboratory workers.
Exposure to benzene can also occur at home. At home products such as paint, detergents, varnishes, furniture waxes, solvents such as paint thinner, and degreasers may likely contain benzene and users should strictly adhere to safety instructions.
How will I feel after being exposed to benzene?
If you inhale benzene vapors, you may experience nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, headache, rapid heartbeat, tremors, confusion and unconsciousness. If you ingest benzene, you may experience the same symptoms as inhalation as well as vomiting and convulsions. If you come into physical contact with benzene, you may experience irritation and tissue damage. Regardless of the manner in which you have been exposed to benzene, it is highly recommended that you seek immediate medical attention.
Can exposure cause cancer?
Benzene is classified as a carcinogen (cancer causing agent) by the US Department of Health and Human Services and, therefore, its use is highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and in the workplace by OSHA (US Occupational Safety and Health Administration).
Exposure to benzene over a long period of time can lead to lung cancer and various types of leukemia (a cancer that affects the white or red blood cells and the blood production centers of the body). Exposure to benzene can also cause Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer affecting the white blood cells and the lymphatic system.
Myelodysplastic Syndrome can also result from exposure to benzene. Myelodysplastic Syndrome is not a cancer but it can itself increase the risk of developing leukemia. It affects the bone marrow and results in the production of defective and immature red blood cells.
What are the symptoms of diseases caused by benzene exposure?
Symptoms of leukemia include fever and chills, night sweats, sudden weight loss, weakness and fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and spleen, and bone pain. Symptoms of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma include similar symptoms as leukemia as well as swollen lymph nodes in the neck, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, coughing and chest pain. Symptoms of Myelodysplastic Syndrome include fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin color and frequent infection.
Statute of Limitations
Oftentimes, people are reluctant to file or consider filing a lawsuit when they are fighting a serious illness. You should focus on your health and recovery but you should also keep in mind that any recovery you obtain from a lawsuit may help pay for medical bills, lost wages and other related expenses.
If you have been diagnosed with an illness that is benzene related, it is highly recommended that you contact an attorney as soon as possible because the time limit to file on products liability cases (which would include cases against certain paint manufacturers and other materials that contain benzene) is two years after the diagnosis. If a loved one has died from a benzene related illness, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible because the same time limitations usually apply.
How will I pay for an attorney?
Attorneys who handle these types of cases almost always work on a contingency basis. This means that you will not pay any attorneys' fees up front or have to put up any money up front, including costs of expert witnesses. Rather, if you obtain a settlement or a jury award, your attorney is paid from that recovery amount.
Call us. We are free and we are confidential. We can recommend an attorney in your area who has handled similar benzene-related cases.
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