Anyone working in or around the petrochemical industry has a potential for being exposed to benzene. Benzene is a carcinogen that has been linked to Leukemia along with other types of cancers.
If you or someone you know has been working with crude oil, plastics, dyes, lubricants, adhesives, or pesticides, you may be wondering what the likelihood of developing cancer is.
Discover more about the links between cancer and benzene, along with how the chemical industry has worked to create doubt surrounding the issue.
By the end, you will better understand benzene’s backstory and how it may affect you.
Benzene is Linked to Cancer
Benzene is a chemical that is dangerous whenever it is ingested, touched, or inhaled. Any person that has breathed in the chemical has the highest risk of developing long-term health issues.
The first ever recorded case of benzene-related Leukemia was reported back in 1928. Twenty years later, the American Petroleum Institute determined that the only amount of benzene concentration that was safe was zero.
Studies continued over the years linking benzenes and Leukemia. Following some of the research, OSHA required that factories and other workplaces lower their standard of benzene
concentrations down to 1 part per million, which was previously set at 10 parts per million.
Research results later proved that those that were exposed to the higher levels of benzene had a five times higher chance of developing Leukemia than those that were not in contact with the chemical.
The year 2004 brought the findings of a study done in Shanghai on workers exposed to just 1ppm of benzene. The outcomes showed that those in contact with it had a lower white blood cell count than those that weren’t, proving once again that there is no safe amount of benzene concentration.
The effects of benzene are often not noticeable for many years after contact. Damage can come in many forms, including both chronic illness and acute health problems. The main issues happen in both the red and white blood cells.
Some of the conditions besides Leukemia that may develop from exposure to benzene include bone marrow failure, immune system disorders, muscle weakness, infections, enlarged lymph nodes, bruising easily, and anemia.
Regardless of the symptoms associated with benzene contact, it is essential to get medical treatment right away if you develop symptoms.
Industry Interests Manufacture Doubt
Those in charge of the petrochemical industry have been aware of the benzene dangers for close to a century. Some of the studies done linking Leukemia to chronic benzene exposure go back as far as the 1940s.
As information was publicly shared about the dangers of benzene and various limits were placed in workplaces, the industry took a stance against the scientific findings.
In order to put doubt into those that were concerned about exposure, they paid for a critical review of the studies done by the National Cancer Institution. The man that did the review stated that the findings he came up with were unreliable.
Even though there is plenty of solid evidence pointing to the fact that benzenes do cause Leukemia, the review that the industry paid for did exactly what they were hoping it would.
It put a question in the minds of those that wanted to know the validity of the previous studies.
In the event you believe that you or someone you love has been in contact with benzene, it is important to know that you have legal rights.