Benzene Exposure Overview

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What Is Benzene?

Benzene is a chemical compound that is colorless, transparent, and sweet-smelling. It is a flammable, water soluble substance, making it ideal for use in everyday, household items such as paint, glue, rubber, and plastic. It was once even used in aftershave lotion, because of its aromatic scent. It was also used as an additive in gasoline for many years before people learned of its toxicity.

Aside from being a very useful chemical, benzene is also a well-known carcinogen. Long-term exposure has been linked to the onset of many forms of leukemia and other blood-related illnesses. It was documented as a harmful substance as early as the 1920s. However, it was not until much later that scientists decided to study its links to various types of cancer. Numerous studies found the chemical to be a cause of leukemia, but no legal actions were brought against manufacturers until the 1970s. More people are turning to legal attorneys to fight for their rights, seeking compensation for exposure to benzene.

Benzene Exposure Causation

Benzene-related leukemia is considered an occupational illness because of its link to many workplaces and occupations. Before the knowledge of benzene's toxicity was made known to the general public, people continued to work in unprotected conditions. Many were exposed to the chemical for years before diagnoses occurred, and did not associate their illnesses with benzene until recently. Those at higher risk are individuals working with automobiles, working in plastic manufacturing plants, steel mills, printing companies, painters, and pesticide manufacturing plants. Scientists have found traces of benzene in drinking water, particularly in areas around chemical plants. When waste products are not properly disposed of, leakage can occur, contaminating the soil and polluting groundwater. Anyone living in these areas is also at a high risk for benzene-related illnesses.

Types of Illnesses Associated with Benzene

Leukemia is the most common disease linked to long-term benzene exposure. The major types of leukemia include acute and chronic myelogenous leukemia, acute and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and hairy cell leukemia. The first, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) takes place in the bone marrow of the patient. Blasts, or undeveloped white blood cells, are abnormal is shape, appearance, and function, and prohibit normal, healthy white blood cells from ever being produced. Since white blood cells are a person's main shield of defense against infection, toxins, and foreign bodies, the individual's health is at serious risk. A person with AML has a weakened immune system, and he or she has virtually no way to fend off diseases. Common ailments, such as the flu, become life threatening. Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) differs slightly because it causes too many white blood cells to be produced, but is a relatively slow-growing cancer. Lymphocytic leukemia is caused by a single defective lymphocyte in the bone marrow or lymph nodes that reproduces over time, preventing healthy cells from being produced. The onset of hairy cell leukemia is similar to other types of Leukemia, with the main difference being its appearance. Hairy cell leukemia was given name because the mutated cells appear hairy under a microscope. The symptoms of the disease, however, are very similar to the others and are often accompanied by a swollen spleen.

Legal Action

If you suspect your illness is related to benzene exposure, and you wish to receive compensation, your first step is to contact a qualified attorney equipped with the experience to handle such a case. There are several attorneys who can provide you with the support needed to win your case. However, the best resources are available through toxic tort attorneys. These individuals have experience with claims related to benzene, asbestos, and other harmful substances, and can provide you with the most feedback. Once you decide to contact a lawyer, he or she can provide you with a comprehensive evaluation of your claim, factoring in employment history, medical records, and associated health issues. They can then determine if you have a viable claim and estimate the amount of compensation you might be awarded.

The amount of compensation you might receive is, of course, case-specific. Depending on the type of illnesses , you medical bills and expenses, and the amount of time you were forced to take off from work, the compensation you receive varies. Compensation also depends on whether or not the claim is based on company negligence or if it is a no fault incident. Companies that are found to have been deliberately placing their employees at risk are likely to be held accountable for larger sums. Moreover, if a claim is contested by a company's insurer, and a settlement cannot be reached, the suit is likely to be brought before a court, possibly increasing the amount of funds you receive. More importantly, an attorney is there to walk you through these proceedings and explain the litigation process. He or she is representing your best interests while upholding your legal rights. Higher penalties ensure that individuals and corporations are held accountable for negligence and malpractice in the workplace.