The Link Between Benzene and Leukemia

From Louisiana Attorneys Landry & Swarr

Benzene is a chemical that is used most frequently in the plastic and rubber manufacturing industries, as well as being present in oil, gasoline, and the many products that use petroleum solvent.

Since the first half of the twentieth century, benzene has been recognized as a dangerous and harmful chemical, and it is now heavily regulated to limit people’s exposure to this carcinogen. However, as it is a natural component of crude oil and is used in the manufacturing processes for many types of goods, people are still at risk for benzene exposure and contamination, which can lead to serious health effects.

Benzene Exposure May Lead to Cancer

Benzene is a dangerous chemical because it has such tremendous effects on the blood of those exposed to it in any significant amount. Benzene exposure is most common among those working in industries that use materials that include benzene or give off emissions that contain the chemical. The chemical can be dangerous when touched, ingested, or breathed, and inhalation can lead to some of the most significant long-term consequences.

In many cases, the effects of benzene are not felt for years after exposure. Contact with the chemical causes cell damage, and this can build up over a long period of time. After the dangerous substance is breathed and transferred to the blood over an extended period, the blood can develop a variety of issues, affecting both red and white blood cells. As a result, it is commonly linked with bone marrow failure, anemia, and immune system disorders.

In addition, studies have indicated the benzene is connected with leukemia in a number of forms, including both acute and chronic versions of the illness. Leukemia involves the failure of the blood-forming organs, meaning that it can come in several forms. Benzene is most commonly linked with acute leukemia, which is broken down into acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), including variations within both groups.

In general, leukemia involves changes in white blood cell creation that prevents normal blood cell production and functions. AML involves the accumulation of rapidly growing white blood cells, which stops the normal production of blood cells from occurring. ALL causes the body to overproduce immature white blood cells in the bone marrow, also stopping normal blood cells from being produced at a normal rate.

Although leukemia is a serious illness in both acute and chronic cases, those experiencing acute leukemia require immediate treatment, as the disease spreads rapidly and causes problems for other parts of the body. Initial symptoms include weakness, anemia, frequent infection, enlarged lymph nodes, and easy bruising, among others.

How You Might Be Exposed to Benzene

Exposure to benzene can come in a number of ways. In general, people working in industries that use benzene have the greatest risk for contracting leukemia or other diseases as a result of contact with the chemical. Factories making plastic, rubber, and synthetic or nylon materials use benzene in the process, and the chemical is also used in the production of various lubricants, cleaners, and pesticides.

When working inside, the risk for benzene exposure is greater, as concentration levels are higher. People working with glue, paint, cleaners, waste, and gasoline face the highest risk.

In addition, benzene is present in cigarette smoke. People are also more likely to feel the effects of exposure when they have worked near gas stations and industrial areas.

Because benzene is present in a variety of industrial processes, it is also possible that people may become exposed to the substance as a result of leaks in the air and water. Oil processing plant accidents can cause contamination in the groundwater, as can leaks from sites storing hazardous wastes.