Have you been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) or Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)?
When a doctor tells you that you have a rare and malignant cancer of the bone marrow, one of your first thoughts is probably to wonder how you got it. Was it bad genes? A lifestyle choice? Did your blood cells choose to mutate out of some perverse will of their own?
There is another possibility. Many bone marrow disorders, including MDS and AML, have been linked to benzene, a chemical commonly found in the petrochemical industry. With long-term exposure, benzene can stop the normal production of red blood cells and destroy the normal functioning of bone marrow.
Some people never realize that they received toxic levels of exposure to this known carcinogen until years after the fact. Thus, although OSHA made new regulations in 1978 and 1987 to limit exposure to benzene in the workplace, it is still possible that you were exposed to unsafe levels of this dangerous chemical. Here is what you need to know.
What is Benzene?
Benzene is a colorless or light yellow chemical derived from petroleum and coal. It has a sweet odor and is highly flammable. Benzene occurs naturally in volcanoes, cigarette smoke, petroleum, and forest fires. Its volatile nature means that benzene evaporates quickly into the air, where its harmful vapors can be inhaled. Water soluble, it also absorbs readily into the skin.
Benzene is one of the top 20 chemicals produced in the United States. It can be found in thousands of household and industrial products, including insecticides, solvents, glues, detergents, and plastics. It can be found in the ordinary environment as well. Two common ways that people are exposed to benzene on a regular basis are through cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust. There is also a higher level of benzene present in the air around gas stations.
People who work in industries that either make or use benzene are at a higher risk for exposure. These include:
- The rubber industry
- Gasoline-related industries
- Oil refineries
- Chemical plants
- Shoe manufacturers
- Coal refineries.
The Center for Public Integrity reveals that the American Petroleum Institute was aware of the risk posed by benzene exposure for years and spent at least $36 million on research designed to protect its member interests at the expense of workers. Moreover, unsafe levels of benzene continue to be found in and around factories that use benzene in their manufacturing process despite the fact that the chemical is now regulated.
How Does Benzene Exposure Affect the Human Body?
Benzene poses a significant health hazard to anyone exposed to it, especially people who may have inhaled benzene vapors or routinely or come in contact with the chemical for a period of one year or more. Because it naturally occurs in petroleum at levels up to four grams per liter, working around petroleum products, in petrochemical factories, and in fuel processing plants can lead to toxic levels of benzene exposure.
Benzene exposure is toxic in two ways. Short-term exposure to high concentrations of it cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, confusion, unconsciousness, and even death if the vapors are released in a high enough concentration.
Long-term exposure to benzene affects the blood, causing a decrease in red blood cells (anemia) and damaging the production of bone marrow.
Researchers have determined that long-term exposure to high levels of benzene — whether it is inhaled or absorbed through the skin — causes cancer. Benzene exposure has been linked to the following conditions:
Benzene is also associated with the suppression of human T cells, meaning that exposure to this chemical can lower the body’s ability to fight off disease and infection.
What Can I Do if I Think My Illness Resulted from Benzene Exposure?
If you believe that you contracted any of these serious diseases due to benzene exposure, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to see if you are able to file suit under Maryland’s discovery rule, which allows individuals to extend the ordinary statute of limitations. Your attorney will also be able to review whether you are entitled to receive a settlement to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness can be hard to process. You may have feelings of grief, anger, or disbelief. These feelings can cause you to avoid taking action. However, the longer you delay in contacting an attorney in a case involving possible benzene exposure, the less likely you will be to recover a fair settlement. At The Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we take these cases very seriously, and we treat our clients with compassion and respect. No one should get sick in the workplace, but if they do, they deserve to be compensated to the full extent of the law.
Don’t take a chance with your family’s financial security — contact Steven H. Heisler, “The Injury Lawyer,” by calling (410) 625-4878 or filling out our website inquiry form.