At the end of April, Michael Butts’ case against oil companies including ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Sunoco went to trial, the Daily Hornet reported. He was a maintenance and repair mechanic who had used benzene laden gasoline, oil, solvents, adhesives and degreasers almost daily for nearly five decades. The products, manufactured by the petrochemical companies Michael was suing, did not carry warnings of the dangers of benzene exposure, despite evidence dating to the 1950s. Those dangers include the rare form of cancer Michael developed – Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
At the close of evidence, but before the case was given to the jury, Michael agreed to a confidential settlement – a common practice for petrochemical companies. This practice was part of a larger multi-million dollar, industry-led strategy to bury scientific evidence linking benzene exposure to cancers such as AML. The strategy was revealed in an exposé by the Center for Public Integrity and The Guardian. The industry’s trade association, the American Petroleum Institute (API), helped lead its efforts to delay, stall and buy its way out of public accountability.
Meanwhile, workers like Michael were cleaning tar from their tools and even their gloves and boots by soaking them in gallon drums of cleaning solvent that contained benzene. They breathed in the sweet-smelling toxic chemical that enveloped the air where they worked. They never suspected their job was slowly killing them.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information explains that benzene weakens the production of healthy blood components while producing abnormal ones. And, because benzene poisoning symptoms often take years to manifest, workers like Michael usually find out too late. They are left with few effective treatment options, forced to endure a slow and painful death.
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If you would like more information about benzene exposure and benzene-related cancers such as AML, you can contact John Tomlinson, a lawyer in our Toxic Torts Section. He can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email John.Tomlinson@beasleyallen.com. You can also find more information at www.benzene-exposure.com.
The Denver Post