Benzene, also sometimes called benzol, is a common derivative of petroleum. Benzene has various uses as a solvent, as a motor fuel and in the production of other chemicals, such as phenol. Benzene is colorless and flammable. Benzene is volatile and quickly gives off vapors which are then inhaled. The liquid is also absorbed through the skin, and even at very low concentrations, it causes leukemia.
Exposure to benzene causes genetic damage to the blood cells located in the bone marrow. Benzene may also cause a more general poisoning to the bone marrow, known as aplastic anemia. Benzene has been associated with acute leukemia since 1928. Leukemia can be treated and, in some cases, cured. Unfortunately, there are cases, where intensive and painful treatment leads to temporary remission, followed by the return of a much more difficult to control stage of the disease. Eventually, further control may become impossible and death results.
The petroleum industry knew as early as 1948 that multiple exposures were linked to the development of leukemias. The industry also knew that susceptibility varied from one worker to another and that the only sure way to prevent benzene poisoning was to keep concentrations in the atmosphere at zero. The industry also advised against any skin contact, but workers at Durez in the 1960s, for example, were never warned of this, either.
If you were occupationally exposed to benzene, make sure your doctor is aware of your work history, since initial symptoms of disease may be vague and hard to diagnose. If you have been diagnosed with an illness, such as leukemia, and were exposed to benzene during the course of your employment, contact us for a free case evaluation.