Benzene is a colorless and flammable liquid with a sweet odor. Benzene is an additive in gasoline and solvents and small amounts of benzene are used in making a variety of products including some plastics, rubbers, synthetic fibers, detergents, dyes, drugs, and pesticides. It also is a component of cigarette smoke. Benzene occurs naturally from forest fires and volcanoes.
Benzene has been linked to acute myeloid leukemia and myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, The National Toxicology Program, and the Environmental Protection Agency all classify benzene as a known cancer-causing substance. The Department of Health and Human Services has also determined that long term exposure to benzene causes cancer in humans.
Exposure to Benzene
As one of the top twenty most produced chemicals in the United States, benzene is ubiquitous. It is in the outdoor air at low levels from gas stations, vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions and tobacco smoke. Indoor air also typically contains levels of benzene, coming from products that contain benzene such as detergents, paints and glues. Benzene leaking from underground storage tanks can contaminate well and groundwater. Since benzene is a recognized carcinogen, the EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulate benzene levels.
Benzene causes normally functioning cells to malfunction. It can cause bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells. It can alter blood levels of antibodies resulting in the loss of white blood cells.
The major effect of long term benzene is on the blood. Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow resulting in a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. The blood cancer leukemia and the bone marrow cancer myeloma have been linked to long term benzene exposure.
Despite the development of regulatory control and oversight, benzene exposure continues to be a significant health issue in the US today. For more information on current benzene regulation or assistance with understanding risks and health issues related to benzene exposure, contact your local or state bar association for referrals to Benzene attorneys who are qualified and experienced in litigating claims for benzene related disease.