Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid that is produced naturally by volcanos, fires, crude oil, gasoline, cigarette smoke, and through human activities. According to the CDC, benzene is one of the top 20 chemicals utilized in the production of various products and materials in our country. Unfortunately workers exposed to it risk suffering life-threatening diseases like leukemia and other cancers.
Common Dangers of Benzene Exposure for Workers
Benzene is often used as a starter in producing other chemicals and has been utilized as a solvent, although its use for this has decreased significantly as its dangers have become known. Benzene can be found in the following:
- Nylon and other synthetic fabrics
- Some drugs
- Furniture waxes
People can be exposed to benzene in their everyday lives from its release into the environment from gasoline and engine exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, and secondhand smoke, or if they live near industrial sources. However, the exposure is much less than for workers working around it on a regular basis in industries that use or make it. Jobs where workers face the most risk of dangerous levels of exposure include:
- Rubber industries
- Oil refineries
- Chemical plants
- Shoe manufacturers
- Industries associated with gasoline production and products
Other workers who also must work around benzene risk developing benzene-related illnesses, especially when they are exposed in poorly ventilated areas. These include:
- Steel workers
- Workers in the printing industry
- Lab technicians
- Gas station employees
Symptoms of Benzene Exposure to Watch For
Benzene exposure can affect a victim’s ability to produce red and white blood cells, which are essential for a healthy immune system and good cardiovascular health. Symptoms of exposure to high levels of benzene can develop immediately or within several hours. An employee could experience one or more of these signs of exposure:
- Becoming drowsy
- Feeling dizzy
- Experiencing a rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Having headaches
- Experiencing tremors
- Feeling confused
- Becoming unconscious
Exposure through drinking beverages or eating foods with high levels of benzene is rarer. However, symptoms that could develop within minutes of consuming benzene include:
- Vomiting, which could also cause breathing and choking problems
- Experiencing irritation in the stomach
- Becoming dizzy
- Feeling sleepy
- Going into convulsions
- Having a rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Death, if the exposure level was extremely high
If a worker is exposed to benzene in its liquid or vapor form, his skin, eyes, and throat can become irritated
Five Illnesses Workers Can Develop From Benzene Exposure
Employees exposed to benzene on a long-term basis—a year or more—could develop life-long health conditions. Some of these diseases and medical problems include:
- Anemia. This can be caused by a decreased red blood cell count, resulting in him feeling tired and weak.
- Low white blood cell count. If a person has a low white blood cell count, he can experience a weakened immune system and face an increased risk of infection—sometimes with fatal results.
- Low blood platelet count. If a worker suffers with this, he could experience excessive bleeding and a tendency to bruise easily.
- Irregular menstrual cycle. Women exposed to high levels of benzene could find that their monthly menstrual periods become irregular, and their ovaries could decrease in size.
- Cancer. If a worker is exposed to high levels of benzene in the air, he could develop cancer, such as leukemia and cancers in blood-producing organs.
Victims of benzene exposure need immediate medical treatment. Unfortunately, there is no antidote for benzene poisoning. They will also need long-term expensive medical treatments for the medical conditions—like cancer—that result from the exposure.
If you were exposed to benzene at your job, you could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for your medical treatments and lost wages. Fill out my online form or start an online chat today to schedule a free consultation to learn how I can assist you in getting the compensation you deserve.