A research project by Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) may change how exposure to semi-volatile chemicals, such as the carcinogen benzene, is measured in the near future. BCM explains that researchers are investigating a new technology in the form of a wristband that monitors possible chemical exposure in real-time.
The college is collaborating with researchers from UTHealth-School of Public Health, Texas A&M University and Oregon State University to monitor people living and working in areas that were flooded by Hurricane Harvey and who are at a high risk of exposure to benzene and other toxic chemicals. The porous silicone wristbands can absorb more than 1,500 organic chemicals “in a process that mimics the human cell,” the Houston Business Journal reports.
The promising technology could improve worker safety in industries and occupations that are at a high risk of exposure to benzene.
Beasley Allen has previously described how railroad workers, automobile mechanics and petroleum refining and extraction workers are among the occupations at an increased risk of benzene exposure. Many employers are lax in implementing protective measures for employees who are persistently and directly exposed to benzene. But something as simple as wearing a wristband could alleviate some of the obstacles companies claim prevent them from better enforcing worker safety protections.
Benzene has a sweet odor and has been deemed a chemical carcinogen since 1982 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The toxin can be inhaled and absorbed through the eyes and skin when workers come in contact with sources of benzene including natural gas, petroleum products, plastics, lubricants, detergents, rubber products, and paint.
Initially, benzene related cancer presents as Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), which is a group of bone marrow disorders. Roughly 30 percent of the patients diagnosed with MDS progress to a cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), which occurs when bone marrow cells are transformed into abnormal blood cells or platelets.
MDS symptoms do not manifest in the early stages of the disease, making it difficult to diagnose. However, blood tests may reveal a reduced red cell count, sometimes with a reduced white cell count and/or reduced platelet counts. Blood and bone marrow tests are also required to diagnose AML. Symptoms of adult AML include fever, feeling tired and easy bruising or bleeding.
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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.
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston Business Journal