Exposure to benzene can occur at work or simply by being a member of a community where benzene is found. Workers can be exposed to benzene in industries such as the rubber industry, oil refineries, chemical plants, shoe manufacturers, etc. Less common industries that could have benzene exposure include steelworkers, printers, lab technicians, gas station employees and firefighters.
Exposure in the community can occur from exposure to gasoline fumes, vehicle exhaust, paint solvents, glues, art supplies, emissions from factories and wastewater from certain industries. About half of benzene exposure in the United States comes from cigarette smoke, both directly and secondhand.
Benzene and cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, benzene is associated with cancer in both people and lab-tested animals. The main link seems to be to leukemia and other cancers involving blood cells.
What do benzene studies teach us?
There have been extensive studies in humans and lab animals that indicate a connection between benzene and cancer.
- Studies in people: Studies comparing people exposed to benzene compared to people who have not, have shown an elevated level of cancer cases. The results are difficult to definitively prove a cancer connection as many other factors could be involved with humans.
- Studies in lab animals: These studies involve exposing animals to very high doses of benzene to see if tumors and other health problems arise. The cancer connection is clearer in lab tests, but It is not always clear if laboratory results from animal experiments translate directly to humans.
Either approach on its own may not be conclusive, but the combination of both studies indicates that benzene exposure does cause cancer.
Types of cancers related to benzene exposure
Leukemia, particularly Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), has the strongest connection to benzene exposure. Benzene causes chromosomal changes in bone marrow cells, which are where new blood cells are made. This is believed to be the connection to benzene causing different types of leukemia cancers. Other studies suggest a possible connection to Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), and other blood-related cancers such as Multiple Myeloma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
If exposed to benzene in Missouri, it can be helpful to self-educate and explore your options to ensure that your rights are protected.