Benzene is a colorless chemical found naturally in the air and is one of the most frequently used chemicals in U.S. industry. Benzene enters the air through both natural occurrences, such as forest fires, and human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. Common sources of benzene that lead to human exposure include emissions from burning oil and coal, motor vehicle exhaust, and smoke from cigarettes.
Effects of Benzene Exposure
Exposure to benzene can have several harmful effects on individuals. The severity of the injuries caused by exposure to benzene depends on the amount of benzene that individuals are exposed to and the length of time that they are exposed. Short term exposure to benzene can lead to irritation of the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin, and can even lead to dizziness, drowsiness, and unconsciousness at higher levels. The long-term exposure to benzene has been linked to life threatening side effects such as anemia and cancer, most notably different forms of leukemia. Regulations set up by the EPA are designed to limit the use of benzene to ensure that the levels of benzene in the air do not reach high levels, in an effort to limit people’s exposure to benzene. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has also set up regulations regarding the levels of benzene allowed in the workplace. OSHA has set limits of benzene exposure to 1 part per million parts air, averaged over an 8-hour day, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some recent studies have indicated that benzene may still have some harmful effects below the 1 part per million parts air standard set up by OSHA.
Benzene Cancer Risks
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, has classified benzene as a Group A human carcinogen and the Department of Health and Human Services has indicated that benzene causes cancer in humans. Benzene has been linked to an increased risk of leukemia, which is a cancer of the bone marrow. The bone marrow is where the white blood cells are made in the body. Those most likely to be exposed to high levels of benzene, causing benzene poisoning, are those who work in the manufacturing of benzene or that work in an industry that uses benzene in their products. Benzene is used in that manufacturing of various products including pesticides, detergents, nylon, synthetic fibers, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, drugs, resins, and plastics. Benzene is also found in tobacco smoke.
Questions and Consultations
If you or a family member has been exposed to benzene and noticed adverse side effects, you should contact a physician immediately. If you would like to discuss your rights, are interested in more information on benzene lawsuits, or if you have information about the cases that you would like to share with us, please fill out the free case evaluation form and a member of Seeger Weiss LLP’s experienced staff will call you to discuss your potential rights concerning benzene. Attorney consultations incur no obligation on your part and all initial consultations are free of charge and do not create an attorney-client relationship.