Some workers who were exposed to benzene and were later diagnosed with cancer have earned million-dollar settlements for their suffering.
The EPA warns that benzene—an organic compound that is found in crude oil, gasoline, plastics, and more—can cause cancer, but many workers still come in contact with it every day.
Companies are required to protect workers from unsafe benzene exposure. However, many workers report unsafe working conditions and a lack of protective gear, especially in occupations involving the railroad, oil refineries, and gas stations where benzene is prevalent.
Workers who were exposed to benzene and were later diagnosed with blood cancers like leukemia or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are filing lawsuits against manufacturers. Some have earned millions of dollars in compensation for their suffering.
ClassAction.com attorneys are currently investigating the issue. If you or a loved one were exposed to benzene and later developed cancer, contact us today for more information.
NCI Warns That There is No Safe Level of Benzene Exposure
The American Cancer Society warns that long-term benzene exposure can damage bone marrow. This is particularly dangerous since this is where new blood cells are formed.
Bone marrow damage can cause anemia, low white blood cell counts (which makes it harder to fight off infections), and low blood platelet counts (which can cause excessive bleeding or bruising).
Research conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) found that these long-term complications could happen even if workers were exposed to legal, “safe,” benzene concentrations. In a 2004 study of Chinese shoe manufacturers, researchers found that any exposure to benzene, even within OSHA’s standards, could cause a reduction of white blood cells.
In some cases, benzene exposure has been linked to adult and childhood leukemia (particularly acute myeloid leukemia), non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
Oil Companies Allegedly Paid for Pro-Benzene Research
Shell advised corporate lawyers to “disclose sensitive benzene documents only on court order.”
Lawsuits allege that oil companies have known for decades that benzene causes cancer, but instead of protecting workers they denied it and actively downplayed its risks. The Center for Public Integrity has gathered thousands of internal memos, emails, and letters that show how the petrochemical industry colluded to attack scientific evidence.
One of the unearthed documents was written by a former Shell senior attorney. It is intended as a guide for corporate lawyers handling benzene litigation. Though the internal document acknowledges that scientific literature connected benzene to leukemia as far back as 1948, lawyers are advised to “disclose sensitive benzene documents only on court order.”
But oil companies may have done more than simply refuse to hand over documents. The Center for Public Integrity alleges that the industry helped to shape benzene research so that it was in their favor.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) is the largest trade association representing oil and natural gas companies in the U.S. In order to protect their members’ interests (which include Shell, Chevron, and ExxonMobil), API allegedly spent $36 million on favorable research that would keep benzene regulations at bay.
One API-funded study involved workers in Shanghai, China who worked with benzene. Critics allege that the study was biased because researchers set out to prove that benzene was safe, rather than use the study’s outcomes to create their conclusions.
In addition, the two lead researchers for the Shanghai Health Study had a long-term financial relationship with API. Richard Irons received $100,000 from ACI for a benzene project, and Otto Wong was later paid $25,000 to refute research that was critical of benzene.
Benzene Cancer Lawsuit Results in $7.5 Million Settlement
Workers who were exposed to benzene have filed lawsuits against former employers and benzene manufacturers for allegedly causing their cancer.
Last year, a former career railroad employee sued Union Pacific Railroad for allegedly failing to protect workers against hazardous chemicals like creosote and benzene. Creosote is a wood preservative distilled from tar that contains benzene.
The plaintiff suffers from acute myeloid leukemia (AML) which the lawsuit claims was caused by railroad ties covered in creosote. During his 31-year career with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroads (which were later bought by Union Pacific), Mr. Brown often worked with and carried these toxic railroad ties. His employer, however, failed to provide workers with adequate protective gear. The Madison County jury awarded him $7.5 million in damages for his suffering.
In another case, mechanic Michael Butts filed a lawsuit against oil companies and benzene manufacturers, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and Sunoco. He suffers from AML, which the lawsuit alleged was caused by workplace benzene exposure from using gasoline, oil, and degreasers. In May 2017, the companies reached a private settlement with Mr. Butts in Philadelphia.
If you or a loved one were exposed to benzene and developed a blood cancer like leukemia or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, you may be eligible for a lawsuit.
Lawsuits may be filed against oil and gas companies, former employers who used benzene (including railroad companies, gas stations, etc.), and / or manufacturers of benzene products.
What Can a Lawsuit Recover?
A lawsuit can help recover damages for the following:
- Medical bills and related costs
- Pain and anguish
- Loss of past and future wages
- Funeral expenses
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with cancer after known benzene exposure, you may be eligible for a lawsuit. ClassAction.com’s team of attorneys has the experience and resources to tackle complex benzene litigation, and are currently investigating the issue.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case review. It costs nothing unless we win a jury award or settlement for you.