The Legal Examiner Affiliate Network The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner search instagram avvo phone envelope checkmark mail-reply spinner error close The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner
Skip to main content
worker in the oil field industry at dusk,

Benzene Work Exposure leads to Blood Cancer. Occupational or work exposure to benzene has been linked to various blood cancers, and benzene exposure victims (plaintiffs) are filing lawsuits that have led to verdicts and settlements in the millions of dollars.

The challenge for the industry is that benzene is one of the most widely produced chemicals in the United States and is used in manufacturing in dozens of industries and commonly used products. OSHA has been regulating maximum benzene exposure in the workplace, but some studies indicate that these OSHA guidelines may not be enough.

Texas Carpenter Dies of Leukemia Due to Industrial Benzene Exposure

John Thompson was 70 years old when he passed away due to a rare type of leukemia in November 2009. Thompson had spent the majority of his career working as a carpenter building petrochemical industrial infrastructure in Texas.

He had a long career using benzene routinely on the job, where it was stored in 55-gallon drums and used as a cleaning agent – for his tools, and even his gloves and boots.

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, John Thompson worked as an independent contractor at various local refineries. When he finished the workday, Thompson would routinely wash his hands in benzene – a common practice at the time for most industrial laborers.

He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006 and believed that he developed cancer because of the constant exposure to the sweet-smelling chemical – and that his employers knew about the risk but did nothing to warn him or other workers, let alone enforce safety protocols.

John Thompson finally lost his battle to leukemia on November 11, 2009. The final days in the life of John Thompson were not pleasant, he was bloated and bedridden, and his skin browned by blood transfusions.

Thompson and his family filed a lawsuit, but he died before it went to court.  The Benzene wrongful death lawsuit was brought by Carol Thompson, the widow of John Thompson, in Carol Thompson vs. Univar USA.

Thompson Benzene Wrongful Death Lawsuit ends in Mistrial

After three weeks of testimony and damming evidence, the jurors were asked to decide if Univar, a benzene supplier was responsible for Thompson’s death. But before their verdict could be read, the jury was dismissed and the judge declared a mistrial.

The defense attorney, who represented Univar USA throughout the trial, asked Jefferson County Judge Bob Wortham to declare the mistrial on the grounds that not all of his exhibits were in evidence. Judge Wortham, granted his request.

When it was announced that the jury had reached a decision, the defense asked for the mistrial before the verdict could be read and become official. According to the defense. the jury had voted 11 to 1 in Univar’s favor.

Benzene Cancers-An American Tragedy

Multiple lawsuits are being filed by former industrial workers like Thompson and their families, people who have been exposed to devastating levels of benzene at their workplaces – and these lawsuits have found evidence that the petrochemical industry has known about the dangers of benzene for decades and sought to cover it up by funding research that would “protect member company interests.”

Benzene Industry Conspiracy for years

Benzene is a naturally occurring component of crude oil and is used to make plastics, lubricants, dyes, adhesives, and pesticides. It’s also a key ingredient in gasoline and cigarettes, and it’s the 17th most-produced chemical in the U.S.

In 2014, an investigation conducted by the Center for Public Integrity concluded that the petrochemical industry “went to great lengths” to hide evidence that showed the link between benzene exposure and cancer.

In 1948, documents show that the American Petroleum Institute, a petrochemical industrial group, concluded that “the only absolutely safe concentration for benzene is zero.”

However, a summary created by the API in 2000 documents the efforts of five large companies which spent at least $36 million to produce favorable research on benzene exposure. This summary and various other recently uncovered documents, including memos, emails, and letters illustrate that while the industry was aware of the harm of benzene over seventy years ago, they spent decades trying to fight the scientific link between benzene and cancer and even tried to challenge regulations on exposure limits.

OSHA Benzene Limits in the Workplace

OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) currently sets exposure limits to one part per million, or 1 ppm – one part benzene for every million parts air – during a full eight-hour workday.

The short-term limit is 5 ppm for a fifteen-minute time period each workday. A 2004 study involving Chinese factory workers indicated, however, that subjects were developing precancerous issues with their bone marrow at levels that are currently considered “safe” in the United States.

This means, potentially, that even when employers comply with OSHA regulations workers can still develop blood cancer from benzene exposure.

Thousands of Workers Exposed

Benzene industrial exposure can occur for oil rig and refinery workers, factory workers using solvents, barge and dock workers, chemicals workers, mechanics, painters, workers at paper and/or pulp mills, pipeline workers, railroad workers, rubber and synthetic rubber workers, people who work with shoes and leather, people who work around gasoline or pesticides, and even truck drivers.

Benzene is used in the manufacture of common items such as plastic, dyes, adhesives, lubricants, and solvents. Gasoline and cigarette smoke are the most common non-industrial forms of exposure.

Benzene contamination was also most recently found in skincare products, such as sunscreen, deodorant, and antifungal aerosol sprays.

Benzene Common Forms of Cancer

The five most frequently named cancers in benzene lawsuits include acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Injured by Benzene Exposure? Dr. Shezad Malik Law Firm can help

If you or a loved one were exposed to benzene in your workplace and you have developed cancer, as a result, don’t hesitate to contact us at Dr. Shezad Malik Law Firm based in Dallas Fort Worth, Texas. You need a lawyer on your side to help you get retribution for the harm you’ve suffered – that your employer knew or should have known about.

Selected References:

  • International Agency for Research on Cancer. Benzene, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Volume 100F. Lyon, France: World Health Organization, 2012. Also available onlineExit Disclaimer. Last accessed January 14, 2019.
  • National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Benzene, NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010. Also available online. Last accessed January 14, 2019.
  • National Toxicology Program. Benzene, Report on Carcinogens, Fourteenth Edition. Triangle Park, NC: National Institute of Environmental Health and Safety, 2016. Also available online. Last accessed January 14, 2019.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Benzene, Safety and Health Topics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor. Available online. Last accessed January 14, 2019.
  • Public Health Service. 2014 Surgeon General’s Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014. Also available online. Last accessed January 14, 2019.

Selected references for this Benzene were originally published by the National Cancer Institute.

Comments for this article are closed.