Benzene is a toxic chemical compound that has been used for a variety of industrial and commercial purposes since its discovery in the mid-1820s. Benzene exposure can lead to the development of a number of serious health hazards. As such, certain regulations have been instituted within the United States in order to protect the public from any benzene exposure risks.
Types of Benzene Exposure
People can be exposed to benzene in one of three ways:
- Benzene inhalation
- Benzene ingestion
- Benzene transdermal absorption
Benzene inhalation results from the breathing of benzene vapors. Such exposure is not necessarily a detriment to one's health unless it occurs in high levels over a significant period of time. Benzene inhalation can elicit a number of serious effects, some of which include dizziness, rapid heart rate (tachycardia), chronic headaches, muscle twitching (tremors), confusion, drowsiness / unconsciousness and death.
Employers operating facilities involved in the production of / with benzene materials must abide by strict regulations limiting their employees' exposure. In accordance with regulations set forth by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employees must not be faced with an exposure limit of more than 1 part of benzene per million parts of air (based on a 40-hour workweek).
Benzene ingestion results from the eating or drinking of benzene-laden foods or beverages. In the United States, benzene water and soil contamination are serious concerns. There are more than 100,000 sites across the country dealing with some type of benzene soil / groundwater contamination. Benzene ingestion can elicit a number of serious effects, some of which include vomiting, nausea, stomach irritation, sleepiness, dizziness, tachycardia, convulsions and death.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for ensuring that benzene water and soil contamination is monitored. In accordance with EPA regulations, drinking water must not contain more than 5 parts benzene per billion parts of water. Accidents resulting in the spilling / release of more than 10 pounds of benzene must be reported to the EPA so that they can monitor the situation and measure the extent of contamination.
Benzene transdermal absorption results from coming into contact with benzene and benzene-laden materials. Absorption is made easier if the skin is abraded or in a readily-absorbed mixture of some kind. If enough benzene is absorbed transdermally through the skin, it could lead to the development of a number of serious health hazards, some of which include reddening of the skin (erythema), scaling dermatitis, depression of the hematopoietic system (responsible for the formation of blood cells) and a deficiency in all elements of the blood (pancytopenia).
Benzene Exposure and Leukemia
Benzene exposure has proven capable of causing a number of adverse health effects, few more serious than the development of leukemia, a potentially fatal cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Regardless of the manner in which someone is exposed to benzene (inhalation, ingestion or absorption), there is a potential that the exposure could cause the development of acute myeloid leukemia (acute myelogenous leukemia - AML). AML sufferers have abnormal blood cell production in their bone marrow, leaving them susceptible to infections and other problems related to an immune system deficiency.
Who is at Risk of Benzene Exposure?
People are most likely to come into contact with benzene in an occupational setting. As such, laborers, pipe fitters, painters, leather manufacturers, gasoline distribution workers and refinery workers are all at risk of coming into contact with benzene. Although benzene is most often absorbed via the inhalation of vapors or the ingestion of benzene-laden materials, the hazardous chemical compound can also be absorbed through the skin.
It is the responsibility of employers operating facilities that deal with benzene or benzene-laden materials to ensure the safety of their employees by taking measures to minimize exposure. Failure to take such measures is deemed negligent and can create grounds for personal injury and wrongful death legal action. Benzene lawsuits are designed to provide compensation for pain, suffering and legal expenses incurred as a result of an employer's negligence. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to get additional information about your rights as a benzene disease victim.