People interact with chemicals in a variety of ways every day – chemical compounds are found in foods, cosmetics, soaps and detergents, and many other common household products. Many of these are harmless, but there can be hazardous chemicals such as benzene lurking in a number of places. Benzene can have devastating health effects, and many people do not know that they are at risk of exposure.
Benzene, an organic compound derived from petroleum, is a colorless liquid that has a sweet aroma. It is formed naturally and can be found in crude oil and gasoline; most benzene exposure, however, is a result of human activity. Benzene is extremely prevalent and is currently listed as the 17th most abundant chemical in the country. There are many products manufactured using benzene, including plastics, pharmaceuticals, inks and dyes, pesticides, explosives, waxes, and more.
Inhaling Benzene Causes Health Problems
The most common benzene exposure is through the air. Benzene is emitted through burning coal or oil, automotive exhaust, or evaporation from gas stations. Industrial and auto emissions account for approximately 20 percent of benzene exposure. Vapors from products such as paint, solvents, adhesives, furniture wax, and detergents can also contribute to benzene exposure. Benzene breaks down quickly in the air, but if mixed with rain or snow can result in contamination of soil or groundwater, which takes longer to dissipate.
While there is a small amount of benzene present in the air at all times, the risk is higher for people in certain industries. Workers in oil refineries, chemical plants, and manufacturing face higher rates of benzene exposure. Steel workers, firefighters, lab technicians, printers, and gas station employees work with benzene products and may be exposed. Smokers are also at an increased risk; almost 50 percent of benzene exposure across the country is caused by cigarette smoke.
Severe Risks of Benzene Exposure
Benzene exposure causes a wide range of health risks, depending on the method and length of exposure. Short-term exposure to benzene can cause skin or eye irritation, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea or vomiting, convulsions, fluid in the lungs, or other symptoms. Benzene has also been linked to a number of cancers, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and several forms of leukemia. Benzene toxicity targets the central nervous system and immune system and can cause complications such as aplastic anemia, bone marrow dysplasia, ventricular fibrillation, thrombocytopenia, or excessive bleeding. These conditions range in severity from relatively mild to potentially fatal.
There are some ways that individuals can limit their benzene exposure. Avoiding cigarette smoke is an important step, as both firsthand and secondhand smoke contain high levels of the compound. For those exposed to benzene in the workplace, their employers are responsible for notifying them of the risk and implementing safety measures to prevent unsafe levels of exposure. Residents of industrial areas that may experience soil or groundwater pollution should avoid drinking, cleaning, or bathing with contaminated water.
Philadelphia Chemical Exposure Lawyers at Shein Law Fight for Benzene Exposure Victims
If you or a loved one has suffered an illness due to chemical exposure, call the legal team at Shein Law. Our knowledgeable, experienced attorneys will thoroughly review the facts of your case to determine who is at fault for your benzene exposure and fight to obtain the compensation you deserve. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call us today at 1-877-SHEINLAW (743-4652) or contact us online to discuss your case with a dedicated Philadelphia chemical exposure lawyer.