Benzene and Cancer
Frequently Asked Questions on Benzene and Cancer
What is benzene? «
Does benzene cause cancer? «
What is a carcinogen? «
Why is benzene regulated? «
What health problems does benzene cause? «
What health problems does benzene cause? «
How much benzene is produced and released into the environment? «
When benzene is released into the environment what happens? «
How can someone be exposed to benzene? «
Is the risk for getting sick from benzene greater in workers than residents? «
Do I have any legal rights for the benzene exposure I have endured? «
What is benzene?
Benzene is a clear, colorless aromatic liquid. Benzene is highly flammable and evaporates into air very quickly and dissolves in water slightly. The chemical benzene is used widely in the U.S. as a building block for plastics, rubber, resins, and synthetic fabrics, and is used as a solvent in printing, paints, dry cleaning, and a variety of other things.
Does benzene cause cancer?
The Department of Health and Human Services determined benzene is a known human carcinogen. Exposure to high levels of benzene has been associated with cases of leukemia cancer, including acute myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, and chronic myelogenous leukemia, as well as a number of other types.
What is a carcinogen?
A carcinogen is a substance with the ability to cause cancer. Benzene has been identified as a human carcinogen. There may be no safe level of exposure to a carcinogen, so all contact should be completely avoided.
Why is benzene regulated?
Benzene is regulated because of the dangerous health effects that benzene poisoning is known to cause. Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974 requiring the EPA to determine safe levels of chemicals in drinking water. The EPA calls these levels Maximum Contaminant Level Goals and the EPA set a standard called Maximum Contaminant Levels based on that. The maximum amount of benzene allowed in drinking water is set at 0.005 milligrams per liter. The EPA requires that spills or accidental releases of 10 pounds or more of benzene be reported. OSHA has set a permissible exposure limit of 1 part of benzene per million parts of air in the workplace during an 8-hour workday in a 40-hour workweek.
What health problems does benzene cause?
Even a small amount of benzene exposure can cause temporary nervous system disorders, immune system depression, and anemia. High levels of benzene can result in death, drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, unconsciousness, vomiting, and stomach irritation. Benzene has been identified as a human carcinogen and can cause various forms of leukemia from as little as five years of exposure, and can result in death in some instances.
Is benzene still a risk?
Despite benzene being banned as a solvent in the U.S. for over twenty years, workers are continually exposed to direct and indirect sources of the chemical.
How much benzene is produced and released into the environment?
Benzene is mainly released into the air from gasoline fumes and exhaust. The Toxics Release Inventory has documents that over 2 million pounds of benzene to water and land was released from 1987-1992. The majority of benzene releases were from petroleum refining industries.
When benzene is released into the environment what happens?
Benzene released to soil will evaporate very quickly or leach to groundwater. Some soil microbes can break down benzene, and some ground waters can degrade benzene. Benzene released to surface water usually evaporates within a few hours.
How can someone be exposed to benzene?
- Air containing low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, car service stations, motor vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions.
- Air surrounding hazardous waste sites or gas stations contain a higher level of benzene.
- Indoor air where products containing benzene, such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents are manufactured, used or stored.
- Underground storage tanks or hazardous waste sites containing benzene can contaminate well water.
- There are many industries that expose workers to benzene.
- Tobacco smoke is a major source of benzene.
Is the risk for getting sick from benzene greater in workers than residents?
Exposure to benzene is much greater with workers when there is a spill or fire. Even OSHAs permissible exposure limit for benzene of 1 ppm can still cause health conditions.
Do I have any legal rights for the benzene exposure I have endured?
People have developed leukemia or cancer due to benzene exposure. If you have been exposed to benzene, it may be possible to hold a company liable and qualify you for compensation. To speak with a benzene attorney, please contact us.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to benzene at the workplace or at home, and would like to learn more about your legal rights, contact a benzene lawyer with our legal team. We will help you receive the compensation you are entitled to.