An increasing number of scientific studies link Benzene and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies Benzene as a top-level human carcinogen.
Increased risks of leukemia, mainly Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), have been reported among workers with high levels of toxic exposure in the chemical and petroleum industries.
Long-term studies of workers at three Ohio plants, which produced rubber sheeting with a benzene solvent provided the first medical evidence that Benzene causes cancer.
More recently, the National Cancer Institute and the Chinese Academy of preventative medicine conducted a long term study of over 74,000 workers at over 600 factories and found elevated cancer risks in auto mechanics, rubber and tire workers, paper mill workers and printers, gas truck driver and gas station employees.
The American Public Health Association reports that three million workers in United States are at risk of benzene exposure:
- Auto mechanic and repair shops
- Gas station employees
- Chemical Loaders
- Gasoline truck drivers
- Refinery Workers
Toxic exposure at the workplace has been a growing area of litigation in recent years as more and more people develop related cancers and conditions.
The Lyon Firm is dedicated to assisting in filing wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits against negligent employers and companies who fail to protect their workers.
What is Benzene?
Benzene, also known as benzol, is a highly-flammable hydrocarbon liquid that is colorless and has a sweet odor. It is used primarily as a solvent in oil, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. It is a natural component of crude oil, which is currently the main source of exposure.
Benzene is used to make other chemicals for use in materials such as plastics, various resins, nylon, other synthetic fibers, some types of rubber, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.
Because it has a wide range of use, the chemical ranks high in American production volume, endangering many thousands of workers and residents in Ohio and around the country.
Benzene is a natural element of crude oil, though it is usually synthesized from other compounds present in petroleum. The chemical is regularly used as a substitute for lead, and it now makes up to two percent of every gallon of gasoline.
Based on evidence from past and recent studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified Benzene as “carcinogenic to humans.” The agency reported that it directly causes acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
The U.S National Toxicology Program (NTP), formed from several U.S government agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has classified Benzene as “known to be a human carcinogen.”
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also followed suit with its own warning and classifies Benzene as a known human carcinogen. The EPA has published studies that report it is one of the most significant air toxins, and may contribute for up to 25 percent of the average individual cancer risk.
Industrial Benzene Use
Benzene is a highly volatile chemical, and most exposure is seen through inhalation. Industrial processes are the primary sources and concerns for worker exposure.
Benzene occurs naturally in crude petroleum so almost any level of activity that includes petroleum products can lead to dangerous exposure. Any workplace activity that includes the processing of petroleum products, coking of coal, and use of industrial and consumer products, gasoline and heating oils, can lead to exposure. Industrial discharge, landfill leachate and disposals of benzene-containing waste are also sources of toxic exposure.
Industries and companies that may expose workers include the following:
• Petrochemical companies
• Petroleum refining
• Auto mechanics
• Rubber tire manufacturing
• Benzene storage facilities
• Paper Mill workers and printers
• Shoe makers
• Laboratory technicians
• Gas station employees & gas trucks drivers
Benzene Cancer Links
A worker exposed to benzene for 40 years at the workplace is 155 times more likely to die from leukemia than an unexposed worker. Auto mechanics, printers, barge workers, petrochemical workers, and gas truck drivers are at risk.
Workers that maintain rubber manufacturing equipment and clean the facility are also at risk for long-term exposure and related cancers. Although they may not be working on the production line or directly handling products containing benzene, they are exposed in an environment with a concentration of airborne fumes.
Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 5 million Americans, not including those with workplace exposures, face increased cancer risks from benzene and over 60 other common carcinogens. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause AML and MDS. Benzene is associated with the following types of cancer:
The WHO cancer agency may have left out key findings in recent studies, and the reasons are unknown. In an important review, the agency allegedly–according to Consumer Advocate attorneys–underplayed human exposure to the carcinogenic chemical.
This news comes at a time when millions of workers around the world, including car mechanics, cabinet makers, and various painters all using Benzene products (adhesives, asphalt, solvents, and cleaning agents), often in poorly ventilated ventilated factories and shops, could be at risk of serious harm from toxic chemicals.
The IARC is an international organization funded by 24 member States since 1985, and it has received $48 million from American taxpayers the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Numerous lawsuits from injured claimants have successfully settled, and reached jury verdicts, alleging that benzene exposure caused multiple forms of cancer.
In 2016, a PA court found U.S. Steel liable for the cancer of an ex-employee. Benzene cases are notoriously complex, each requiring an experienced benzene attorney, with expertise in toxic exposure litigation.
In 2020 and beyond, attorneys are reviewing hundreds of cancer cases related to toxic workplace exposure. In Ohio, the industries linked to unsafe workplaces have been targeted in personal injury lawsuits, and companies have been held responsible.
Despite environmental regulation, toxic exposure to industrial chemicals in the workplace has become a public health concern and an expanding area of class-action litigation.
Research, past and present, supports evidence that Benzene causes specific related illnesses, including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and other identifiable blood disorders.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), as many as 238,000 people may be occupationally exposed to Benzene in the United States.
Even though Benzene is less common than it once was, related cancer cases are on the rise, possibly from long-term workplace benzene exposure over the last 50 years.