Written by Avvo Staff

Dangerous Chemical: Benzene Risks & Lawsuit Information

Benzene is a raw chemical material used in the manufacturing of rubber, plastics, drugs, resins, paints, synthetics and pesticides. Benzene is produced naturally as a byproduct of carbon-rich materials undergoing incomplete combustion. It also found in vehicle & factory emissions and tobacco smoke. The vast majority of today's benzene is produced by the petrochemical industry.

Benzene is a known carcinogen and is harmful if exposed to it for long periods. Benzene exposure is a particularly concerning factor for workers in factories where benzene in used in the production process. Benzene may also be produced by natural events like volcanic eruptions and forest fires.

Adverse Risks of Benzene

A known carcinogen, benzene causes serious health hazards. The major effect of benzene is on red blood cells. Benzene decreases the red blood cell count and affects bone marrow. Short term exposure to benzene may cause the following:

  • confusion
  • sleepiness
  • rapid pulse
  • loss of consciousness
  • anemia
  • damage to the nervous system
  • suppression of the immune system
  • death

If a high level of exposure is encountered, a person should seek immediate medical attention. If persons are exposed to benzene in for a long period of time, it may lead to more complicated health hazards including:

  • acute myelogenous leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood
  • secondary aplastic anemia
  • damage to the reproductive system

Benzene enters into the human body through skin contact, consumption of contaminated water or food, or through inhalation.

Current Benzene Lawsuits & Settlements

Persons experiencing health hazards such as acute leukemia as a result of benzene exposure may file lawsuits against those responsible for their exposure. Exposed persons are entitled to seek actual and punitive damages. Before filing a benzene-related lawsuit, the locations and products of known benzene exposure must be identified. National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have set limits on levels of benzene exposure. If benzene contamination is more than this level in work place or environment, employers are liable to face legal procedures.

The largest civil settlement related to benzene exposure occurred in Arizona. In October 2000, Union Oil Company of California (Unocal) agreed to pay $675,000 in penalties for contaminating ground water and soil caused by leaking underground gasoline storage tanks. There have been a number of effective benzene-related lawsuits filed, resulting in multimillion-dollar compensations. These monetary compensations helped patients to get required medical help and treatments.

Getting Legal Help

Millions of people work in benzene-related industries. Affected people should seek out lawyers who specialize in such dangerous chemical lawsuits. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure the safety of employees by taking measures to minimize benzene exposure. Failure to do so deems these employers negligent and liable for legal actions. Benzene-related lawsuits are to provide compensation for pain, suffering, and legal expenses of victims. If the victim dies due to benzene exposure, relatives can file a lawsuit to obtain justice.

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