The Dangers of Benzene Exposure

December 17, 2012

843640_blue_barrels_2.jpgBenzene is a carcinogen that can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested along with food. Benzene exposure is one of the major health risks for workers who deal with petroleum solvents. Benzene is banned as a solvent in the U.S., though it is still present in many petroleum products. It can be inhaled by workers when the vapors evaporate from the solvent. Workers can also absorb it through the skin when handling materials contaminated with the substance.

Our benzene poisoning lawyers warn that exposure to benzene is causally linked to several forms of Leukemia. Those with highest risk of exposure include those working in industries involving chemicals, paint, refinery, leather, pesticide, rubber, press, adhesives, paper pulp, and gasoline distribution.

Benzene affects the bone marrow, so it does not release enough red blood cells. It is linked to aplastic anemia, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and myleodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Benzene particularly targets the kidney, lung, liver, brain and heart. It can also cause damage to the chromosomes and enact strand breaks in DNA.

In some cases, women exposed to benzene experienced irregular periods and decreased ovary size. Men with high exposure to benzene are likely to manifest abnormal sperm chromosome amounts, affecting their fertility. Benzene has also been linked to neural birth defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida.

Apart from petrol or gas used to fill automobiles, benzene can be found in furniture wax, paints, detergents and glues. Fortunately, the levels of benzene in these products has been brought down through government regulation since the late 1970s, though vapors emanating from these products can still be inhaled, particularly by workers involved in their manufacture or those using the finished products.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations have set the permissible airborne benzene limits at an average of 1 ppm over a work shift period of 8 hours and a maximum of 5 ppm during a 15-minute work period. The NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) has recommended an exposure limit of 0.1 ppm during a 10-hour work shift period and 1ppm during a 15-minute period. The ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) has set the airborne exposure limit at 0.5 ppm during an 8-hour period while the short-term exposure limit is set at 2.5 ppm.

Our personal injury attorneys remind workers that they have the legal right to ask their employers for sampling results. Employers are required to routinely evaluate the potential of workers being exposed to benzene. On suspicion of any health problems related to exposure to benzene, workers must immediately visit a doctor trained in recognizing benzene poisoning and other such occupational diseases.

Some measure may be taken to help improve worker safety. These include requiring employees to change their work clothing as soon as their shift is over. Work clothing that has been exposed to benzene must be washed only by individuals aware of the hazards and risks of benzene. Any benzene contaminated clothing must not be taken home. Eye wash fountains must be provided by employers. Emergency showers should also be provided since any benzene on the body must be washed away immediately. Prior to eating or bathing, hands should be washed thoroughly and any eating, drinking, and smoking must be completely avoided in the workplace in order to prevent benzene from being swallowed.

Chicago benzene exposure lawyers at Pintas & Mullins work tirelessly to ensure that victims of benzene receive maximum compensation. Legal consultations with our experienced attorneys are risk-free, no-obligation, and no-cost.