Benzene Exposure In The Workplace
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Benzene is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor, and can be both a natural substance as well as man-made. For more than 100 years, benzene was a choice chemical compound found in a variety of manufacturing processes, as well as in common household goods. It evaporates into the air very quickly, dissolves slightly in water, and is highly flammable.
Many industries use—or have used—benzene to manufacture other chemicals, plastics, resins, nylon, and synthetic materials. Benzene is also used to make some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. If you work, or have worked in the past, at a plant or manufacturing site that makes these kinds of materials, you may have been exposed to benzene without realizing it. While it is not very harmful in small doses or with limited exposure, prolonged exposure can lead to dangerous side effects, diseases and illnesses.
Benzene is contained in crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. Outdoor air contains low levels of benzene from natural sources, as well as from industrial emissions. Indoor air may contain high levels of benzene from products that contain the chemical such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents.
Studies have shown that a certain trades, jobs and careers have an increased risk of contracting leukemia and other blood diseases as a result of their occupational exposure to benzene. These trades may include petroleum refinery, plastics manufacturing, steel manufacturing, painting, gasoline distribution, chemical development and manufacturing, rubber manufacturing, and printing press operations. Places like factories, chemical plants, refineries and textile plants are all places that have histories of benzene exposure at high levels.
The National Institutes of Health has reported that chronic or prolonged exposure to benzene has been shown to lead to degeneration of the bone marrow and eventual leukemia, and to the possibility of anemia. People who have had exposure from as little as five years up to 30 years have suffered from cancers such as leukemia and Hodgkin's disease. These are particularly dangerous diseases, because they can cause the immune system to shut down, leaving the body vulnerable to infections that cannot be fought off.
Even short-term exposure to high benzene levels can be dangerous. Symptoms and effects of even short-term benzene exposure may include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, nausea, increased heart rate, respiratory conditions, unconsciousness and possibly death.
Since the link between benzene and cancer was discovered, the government, as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has set laws and guidelines for employers to follow regarding benzene use and exposure limits. While many companies do adhere to these laws, there are also many who may be neglecting them. Any individual exposed to industrial levels of benzene is at high risk of suffering chronic health conditions and terminal illness. Constant medical treatments for these diseases can be damaging physically, financially, and emotionally. If you believe you have been exposed to high levels of benzene at the fault of your employer, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against them.
What You Can Do
If you or someone in your family has been the victim of toxic levels of benzene, it is in your best interest to get in contact with a lawyer or attorney as soon as possible. Many law firms offer free initial consultations, during which you can explain your case and get advice. The lawyer will be able to tell you how good your chances are of a positive outcome, and may explain to you the long journey you are about to embark on. Make sure you choose a lawyer who is dedicated to finding justice for benzene victims. He or she should have a long history of positive courtroom experience and winning results. These cases require extensive knowledge of very specific areas, processes and procedures, from obtaining evidence to finding witnesses and filing paperwork. While it is a long process, the rewards you may reap are more than worth it.