Health Effects of Benzene Exposure
From Louisiana Attorneys Landry & Swarr
In this day and age, new materials are constantly being introduced into everyday life, making things easier, better, and more convenient. Sometimes, however, materials that we thought were safe can turn out to be very harmful, and materials that are safe in certain situations or limited quantities can wind up being dangerous when used in other conditions.
In its natural form, benzene is produced by forest fires and volcanic activity, and it is also present in oil and gas emissions, as well as being a major component of cigarette smoke. Its prevalence in the United States comes as a result of its industrial uses, as benzene is used in the production of plastic products and other fibers, as well as being found in various rubber, pesticide, and cleaning products.
The chemical can have a variety of effects on people, including multiple stages of illness and injury.
Short-term issues can be caused by breathing, ingesting, or coming into physical contact with materials that have benzene in them. Breathing in large amounts of benzene can result in a variety of symptoms over a few minutes or several hours, ranging from feelings of drowsiness and headaches to more serious conditions like tremors, confusion, and even death.
Symptoms can also arise as a result of ingesting benzene. The chemical was found in certain soft drinks in recent years, and ingestion can have both short- and long-term effects. In the time immediately following ingestion, it is common to feel some of the same effects as breathing benzene can cause (such as fatigue and dizziness) as well as vomiting and an upset stomach. Ingestion can also lead to seizures or even death if a high enough level is consumed.
Benzene can also cause some damage when it comes into physical contact with a person’s skin or eyes. Because the chemical causes cell damage, contact with benzene can result in tissue damage, blisters, and scarring, and contact with the eyes can obviously have serious effects on the person’s vision.
Short-term exposure to benzene should be treated immediately. If the chemical is present in the air, moving away from the area that is contaminated with the chemical is important. It helps to go outside, as the concentration of the chemical is lower in open spaces. If the leak happens outside, simply move away from that area.
Those that come into physical contact with the chemical should wash themselves and dispose of the contaminated clothing immediately. In the case of ingestion, it is important to call for medical attention, as hospital treatment is the most effective remedy.
Many of the most common cases of benzene exposure that lead to toxic chemical law claims have involved long-term exposure to the substance. People working in the industries that use benzene the most—like in plastic manufacturing plants—tend to be at the greatest risk for excessive exposure to the chemical, and long-term exposure can cause damages in a variety of ways.
Over time, the cell damage caused by benzene can manifest itself in the form of several conditions. Blood-related illnesses are most frequent. Damage done to the bone marrow can lead to a decrease in red blood cells, which causes anemia, and the effects of benzene exposure on the white blood cells can lead to immune system disorders.
In extreme cases, benzene can also lead to cancer. Leukemia has been linked with benzene exposure, as the organs that affect blood creation are damaged over time.
Long-term effects are more difficult to avoid, so it is important to work to prevent them in the first place. Be aware of the risks of working in certain industries and with certain products. You can also click here to learn more about benzene law in Louisiana.