Benzene is among the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States. It is present in numerous modern products and industries. It is used to make plastic, detergents, and pesticides. But benzene is very dangerous in high levels of exposure because benzene is a carcinogen.
Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor that evaporates quickly when exposed to air. It is formed from natural processes, such as volcanoes and forest fires, but most exposure results from human activities. Benzene is primarily used as a starting material in making other chemicals including rubber, dye, and lubricants. It is also a natural part of crude oil and gasoline, motor vehicle exhaust fumes, and cigarette smoke.
Yes, according to the American Cancer Society. The link between benzene and cancer has largely focused on leukemia and other cancers of blood cells. Rates of leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia, were found to be higher in studies of workers exposed to high levels of benzene, such as those in the shoemaking, chemical, and oil refining industries.
High levels of exposure to benzene can cause other health problems as well. Breathing in high doses can affect the nervous system, leading to dizziness, headaches, tremors, confusion, and/or unconsciousness. Long-term exposure to benzene primarily harms bone marrow, which can result in anemia, low white blood cell count, low blood platelet count, as well as damage to reproductive organs.
Primary sources of exposure to benzene are from breathing in air containing benzene. Because liquid benzene evaporates quickly, skin exposure is less common. Cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke are important sources of exposure: cigarette smoke accounts for about half of the exposure to benzene in the United States.
Workers in industries that make or use benzene — chemical plants, shoe manufacturers, oil refineries, gasoline-related and rubber industries — may be exposed to this chemical. Steel workers, lab technicians, gas station employees, printers, and firefighters may also be exposed to benzene at work.
Exposure to benzene in the environment can come from automobile exhaust, gasoline fumes, factory emissions, and waste water from certain industries. Levels of benzene are often higher in enclosed spaces with unventilated fumes from gasoline, solvents, glues, paints, and art supplies, as well as heavy traffic areas and those near industrial sources.
Several government agencies regulate benzene levels and exposures. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) limits exposure to benzene in the air in most workplaces. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the percentage of benzene allowed in gasoline and the concentrations of benzene in drinking water. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also sets a limit on benzene in bottled water. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) considers any product containing 5% or more by weight of benzene to be hazardous, requiring special labeling.
Have you or a loved one been exposed to high levels of benzene in the workplace? Take action to protect your rights and receive fair compensation for your injuries. The benzene injury lawyers at Leonard Legal Group are recognized leaders in the field of personal injury law, delivering a high level of excellence in representing thousands of victims and their families. Attorney Scott G. Leonard, a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer and a New Jersey Super Lawyer (2008-2017), has a demonstrated track record of success in advocating for victims. Contact our office today at 973-984-1414 or online to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.
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