More than 60,000 new cases of leukemia will be diagnosed in 2018, according to the National Cancer Institute, and an estimated 24,300 will die from the disease. The cause is often unknown or uncontrollable, like having a family history. But there are factors that increase a person’s risk for developing leukemia, including exposure to chemicals such as benzene.
Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid often identified by its sweet odor. It is used as a solvent in many workplaces including the rubber industry, oil refineries, chemical plants, shoe manufacturing and gasoline-related industries. It is also found in cigarette smoke, gasoline and motor vehicle exhaust, and some glues, cleaning products, detergents, art supplies, and paints.
The American Cancer Society has identified long-term exposure to high levels of benzene as a risk factor for some types of leukemia.
Leukemia is a cancer of the early blood-forming cells and can be either acute (fast growing) or chronic (slow growing). The disease starts in certain blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. The cancer can move into the blood where it can spread to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system, and testicles.
There are four main types of leukemia – acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). A substantial number of epidemiologic studies have provided consistent evidence that exposure to benzene at the workplace increases the risk of AML. Some studies have also suggested a link between benzene exposure and CLL and ALL. Only about 20 percent of leukemias are CML, according to the American Cancer Society.
Several agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have classified benzene as a cancer-causing agent. Yet, more than five million workers in the U.S. continue to be exposed to benzene at levels that may be hazardous to their health.
For many people who have been exposed to benzene, it’s too late. They were never warned that working around the carcinogenic chemical could threaten the life years later. But justice can be served. If you or a loved one has worked in any type of industry where chemicals were present and have been diagnosed with leukemia, you may be entitled to compensation. Consider having a free consultation with a Beasley Allen benzene lawyer.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute