People often equate benzene exposure to working in an occupation where it is necessary to use solvents that contain benzene. This is not always the case. It does occur naturally in the environment in the odor that comes from organic materials, such as oil and gas. Its presence was first discovered back in the late 1800’s when it was isolated in the production of coal tar and even today it is prevalent in the petroleum industry. Even though this deadly chemical is colorless, it does have a sweet odor. Research has proven a definite link between benzene and certain forms of cancer, such as leukemia and Hodgkin’s disease.
Factories that burn oil and coal as a source of fuel are responsible for putting high levels of benzene into the environment. Other causes include the exhaust from vehicles and gas and oil leaks from underground storage tanks. Such leaks can release benzene into the soil and the water supply. There are also natural causes for the presence of benzene in the environment, such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.
Once benzene gets into the water and the soil, it can easily pass into the air through evaporation. It can be transported through the air and fall as rain or snow, often referred to as “acid rain”. When it is present in the soil, it takes a lot longer to break down, but since it is soluble it can easily pass through the soil into the underground water levels that supply lakes, rivers and streams.
Many people do not realize that they are exposed to benzene on a daily basis through such things as cigarette smoke, glue, paint, furniture polish and laundry detergents. With the number of factories and businesses in urban areas, the people who live in cities are exposed to more benzene than those in rural areas. If you live near a landfill site, you could be at risk of being exposed to this chemical through your drinking water. However, the level of benzene in the air and the water has to be quite high before you are able to detect its presence though the smell.
Once benzene enters your system either through contact with the skin, by inhaling it or ingesting it, it travels through the body and is stored in the bone marrow. It then acts on the cells of the bone marrow to make it start producing blood cells at a rapid pace so that the result is immature and abnormal cells. These cells then start destroying the normal cells making it impossible for them to do the work they are supposed to do in the body. The result is a serious blood disorder called leukemia, which often results in death. For those that do survive, the road to recovery is filled with invasive treatments that cause the patient to lose his/her hair and because the usual treatment, chemotherapy, destroys the normal body cells along with the abnormal ones, he/she can become very sick and be susceptible to all sorts of infections.
When you know that a company is responsible for your exposure to benzene, you have the right to sue for compensation. There are many lawyers that handle these cases and have experience in dealing with various companies. When you contact a lawyer as soon as you are diagnosed, he/she will know exactly what documentation you need to prove your case and will work with you until a satisfactory settlement can be reached. These lawyers do not charge a set fee. Rather they charge a percentage of the amount of settlement that you receive. If the lawyer is not successful in reaching a settlement, you do not have to pay any money in legal fees.
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