Industrial workers may encounter hazardous materials while working. Exposure to chemicals such as benzene, a component of crude oil, can cause severe illnesses and even fatalities. Benzene is commonly used, but carries a serious risk of cancer and other health issues.
Numerous Uses for Benzene
Benzene is an organic hydrocarbon liquid that is colorless and has a sweet odor. Although use as an industrial solvent has decreased, it is still commonly used in the manufacturing of several products, including:
- Adhesives and lubricants
- Paints, dyes, and inks
- Pesticides and agrochemicals
- Compact Discs
It can also be found as an additive in gasoline, but federal regulation limits the amount of benzene in fuel. Benzene is also found in emissions from burning coal, oil, and gasoline. Liquid benzene evaporates quickly when exposed to air, which makes it less likely to be absorbed through the skin, but easy to inhale for anyone in the vicinity.
Workers at High Risk of Exposure
Due to the variety of uses for benzene, workers in several industries are at risk for benzene exposure, including manufacturing employees, steel workers, gas station employees, firefighters, lab technicians, printers, watchmakers, and oil refinery workers. Chronic exposure to benzene is most common in the workplace, but it is not just workers who are at risk.
Air can be polluted with benzene through vehicle or factory emissions, and cigarettes account for approximately half of the benzene exposure throughout the United States. People may even be unknowingly drinking benzene as many soft drinks and carbonated beverages contain sodium benzoate, which acts as a preservative and ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. Exposure to heat and light can cause a reaction between these two chemicals that produces benzene. Federal law limits the amount of benzene in drinkable water to five parts per billion, but many soft drinks exceed this limit by a large margin.
Risks of Benzene Exposure
Even in small amounts, benzene can have adverse health effects. Minor benzene exposure can result in:
- Loss of consciousness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Joint pain
- Irritation of the eyes, skin, or throat
Long-term exposure to benzene inhibits bone marrow’s production of blood, causing anemia, immune suppression, and bleeding disorders. Benzene is known to cause acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer infecting the bone marrow that is often fatal within weeks or months. The chemical has also been linked to other forms of cancer, including acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
Federal Laws Governing Benzene
As benzene is a known carcinogen, multiple federal agencies have regulations regarding the treatment of benzene. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific regulations for limiting benzene exposure in the workplace, including the use of personal protective equipment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for limiting the amount of benzene allowed in gasoline and water. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires products that contain more than five percent benzene to carry special labels warning of hazardous materials.
Benzene is still one of the most commonly used chemicals in the United States, however, the risk of exposure is high for many people. Workers who experience chronic benzene exposure may develop symptoms for years. If you or a loved one is suffering from a benzene-related illness, an experienced chemical exposure lawyer can help you review your legal options.
Philadelphia Chemical Exposure Lawyers at Shein Law Obtain Compensation for Victims of Benzene Exposure
The Philadelphia chemical exposure lawyers at Shein Law successfully represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey who have suffered from benzene exposure. Our knowledgeable, dedicated team will thoroughly review the facts of your case to determine who is at fault for your benzene exposure, and prepare an aggressive legal strategy to fight for the compensation to which you are entitled. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, we help benzene exposure victims throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey get justice. Call us today at 1-877-SHEINLAW (743-4652) or contact us online to review your case with an experienced member of our legal team.