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Benzene Lawsuits: What You Should Know

Benzene is a chemical found in many products that has been linked with leukemia and several other health conditions. 

Widespread benzene usage in consumer products and its potential hazards has seen it become a subject of multiple litigations in recent times. 

People who file benzene lawsuits claim manufacturers of these products don’t adequately warn customers of the dangers of using their benzene-based products.

Benzene Lawsuits: What You Should Know

Benzene is a chemical found in many products that has been linked with leukemia and several other health conditions. 

Widespread benzene usage in consumer products and its potential hazards has seen it become a subject of multiple litigations in recent times. 

People who file benzene lawsuits claim manufacturers of these products don’t adequately warn customers of the dangers of using their benzene-based products. 

Workers who develop leukemia from prolonged benzene exposure are also bringing suits against their employers for not warning them about the risks. 

Additionally, cities are filing suits against corporations alleging that benzene creation pollutes water systems, harms the environment, and endangers the citizens.

Tort attorneys investigate these claims and fight to win settlements for clients adversely affected by benzene exposure. 

Several multimillion dollar verdicts and settlements have been awarded in favor of benzene lawsuit plaintiffs in the past 25 years. 

What Makes Benzene Dangerous?

Benzene is a common artificial chemical. It’s produced from forest fires, volcanoes, vehicle exhaust pipes, crude oil, and gasoline. 

Benzene is used in manufacturing nylons, plastics, resins, dyes, pharmaceuticals, detergents, lubricants, and pesticides. 

A significant amount of scientific research shows a strong connection between workplace benzene exposure and several types of cancer. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classify benzene as a carcinogen. 

The American Cancer Society also lists benzene as one of the causes of cancer. 

Benzene’s cancer risk is the basis of lawsuits claiming that conditions like leukemia and multiple myelomas were caused by exposure to the chemical. Workers in manufacturing industries are at higher risk of exposure to benzene but the chemical is also present in many household products.

Attempts to Cover Benzene Dangers

Manufacturers of benzene-containing products have attempted to conceal the dangers of benzene in the past. In 2014, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity revealed that the petrochemical industry spent millions of dollars on science seeking to minimize the dangers of benzene. 

The center reviewed 20,000 pages of internal records and discovered that the industry went to great lengths to refute research showing the harmful effects of benzene in low amounts. 

The investigations also revealed that the industry knew about the carcinogenic properties of benzene since 1948.

Are Benzene Exposure Levels in the US Too High?

Although there are set laws about benzene exposure limits, researchers argue that they remain too high. 

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) limits workplace benzene exposure to one-part-per-million (1ppm) for an eight-hour workday. 

What does this mean?

For every million parts of air, there should be no more than one part of benzene. 

Short-term benzene exposure in the workplace is also limited to 5ppm for every 15-minute period throughout the workday. 

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are starting to suggest that the only safe benzene level is zero. This 2004 study involving workers in a Chinese shoe factory showed rock-solid proof of bone marrow problems that are potential precursors to cancer. 

Benzene lawsuits typically name the industries where these groups of people work as defendants. Laboratory tests and recent recalls also indicate that users of consumer products may also be exposed to higher benzene levels than previously thought. 

Some popular brands of deodorants, antiperspirants, shampoos, aerosolized sunscreens, and conditioners have been found to contain elevated amounts of benzene.  

Studies showcase that prolonged benzene exposure majorly affects the blood and causes blood-related cancers, including different types of leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

Job Descriptions With High Benzene Exposure Risk

The CDC classifies these groups of people as those with the highest risk of benzene exposure: 

  • Workers in steels of rubber processing industries
  • Laboratory and gas station workers 
  • Adhesive production workers
  • Firefighters and emergency responders exposed to smoke
  • Workers in shoe repair or manufacturing industries
  • Workers in the printing industry

Research Linking Benzene to Cancer

Notable research linking benzene to cancer include: 

  • The American Cancer Society in 2013 determined that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases were higher in census tracts which were closer on average to benzene release sites.
  • A 2021 review published in The Lancet revealed “a causal link between benzene exposure and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

The International Journal of Cancer published a study in 2019 that shows a relationship between residential ambient benzene exposure in the United States and subsequent risk of hematological malignancies including follicular and T-cell lymphoma.

Research Linking Benzene to Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma occurs when the blood’s plasma cells become cancerous. 

Many studies link this condition to benzene exposure. 

Notable mentions include:

  • A 2011 study highlighting occupational benzene exposure increased the risk of multiple myeloma.

A 2015 study showcasing that oil industry workers found an association between cumulative and intensity metric of low-level benzene exposure and risk for multiple myeloma and other conditions.

Benzene Exposure and Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow due to disruption of red blood cell production. 

There’s proof highlighting the connection between MDS and exposure to benzene:

  • This National Cancer Institute 2012 study revealed that petroleum distribution workers exposed to relatively low levels of benzene had an increased MDS risk. 
  • The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published a study in 2017 indicating a statistically significant association between benzene exposure and MDS. 

The American Cancer Society includes benzene exposure as one of the risk factors for mutations leading to MDS.

Symptoms of Benzene Exposure

Many people are exposed to benzene daily without being aware. The substance is so ubiquitous and even the air you breathe may be contaminated. However, inhaling significant amounts benzene can trigger these symptoms within some minutes to a few hours. 

  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Dizzying spells
  • Confusion 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Fainting/unconsciousness
  • Death 

If exposure to benzene occurs due to something the a person eats or drinks, the individual may experience:

  • Stomach irritation
  • Vomiting 
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Drowsiness 
  • Sleepiness
  • Convulsions
  • Death 

Direct contact with the eyes or skin can cause severe irritation and tissue injury. It’s vital to seek immediate medical help if you’re exhibiting one or more symptoms after suspected or known benzene exposure. 

You can also contact an attorney about filing a benzene lawsuit if your exposure is due to use of a contaminated product. If you have suffered leukemia, cancer, or multiple myeloma due to prolonged benzene exposure, you may also be able to get compensation. 

A product liability attorney will provide the required lawsuit information and work with you to determine whether you qualify for a benzene lawsuit. 

Most attorneys will offer a free case review with no obligations and you may not need to pay any legal fees unless you win the lawsuit and receive compensation.

Who Qualifies for a Benzene Lawsuit?

Benzene lawsuits are relatively new and their prerequisites are still evolving. Your attorney will provide current benzene lawsuit information that is relevant to your situation. 

These lawsuits are often complicated, and may require litigators to draw from their knowledge of labor, environmental, and medical law to establish the link between a client’s condition and benzene exposure.

Products that can potentially qualify for a benzene lawsuit include:

  • Spray-on shampoos and conditioners and dry conditioners including varieties from brands like Aussie, Herbal Essences, Old Spice, Pantene, and Waterless.
  • Spray-on sunscreens including varieties from brands like CVS, Walgreen, Neutrogena, Sun Bum, Aveeno, and Banana Boat. 
  • Antiperspirants and spray-on deodorants including varieties from brands like Secret, Brut, Old Spice, Suave, and Tag. Benzene lawsuits for these spray-on products do not cover rash or underarm burns resulting from their use.

Notable Verdicts and Settlements

Only few benzene cases get to trial as courts tend to award large sentences against the companies in a lawsuit. However, settlements in such cases can also be substantial alongside other consequences for the company.

Some remarkable outcomes of benzene cases include:

Former Mechanic Benzene Exposure Lawsuit Gets a $6.3 Million Settlement 

Jimmy Thomas worked as an auto mechanic in garages from 1967 – 2008. 

He developed Myelodysplastic Syndrome in 2017 which he attributed to his work with benzene containing-products (solvents, paint strippers) over many years. 

Thomas brought a lawsuit against a group of manufacturers, distributors, and retailers who opted for a settlement a few days before he cases went to trial. 

The defendants settled the case with $6.3 million. 

Eaves Family $21.4 Million Benzene Exposure Verdict against Chevron

Gary and Randy Eaves were brothers who worked at a tire manufacturing company in Arkansas that used a benzene-containing solvent made by Unocal — a firm purchased by Chevron in 2005. 

Both men were responsible for spraying the solvent on tires. 

Gary died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 61 while his brother died of leukemia at the same age. 

Their families filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that the plant workers handled the solvent without protective equipment or clothing, and were never properly advised on handling benzene. 

A Northern California jury concluded that benzene caused the cancer that killed the brothers and awarded a settlement worth $21.4 million to the families. 

$4.5 Million Settlement for Roxana Residents Involved in Underground Benzene Spill

In April 2012, residents of Roxana, a village in Illinois filed class action suits against Shell Oil Company and its affiliates regarding underground benzene spill from a nearby refinery. 

There had been 18 spills in over 25 years and the 183 plaintiffs in the class action alleged that their groundwater, air, and land were contaminated. 

After six years of litigation, a federal court awarded a settlement of $4.5 million to be shared among the plaintiffs. 

Aveeno and Neutrogena Spray Sunscreens Recalled due to Benzene Contamination

In July 2021, Johnson and Johnson announced a voluntary recall of five Aveeno and Neutrogena products after internal product testing revealed low levels of benzene in product samples. 

People who developed cancer after using J&J sunscreen products are filing sunscreen lawsuits against the company. J&J state that benzene is not an ingredient in any of their sunscreens and continue to investigate how it got into the products.

The recalled sunscreen products are distributed worldwide and include: 

  • Aveeno Protect + Refresh
  • Neutrogena Beach Defense
  • Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport
  • Neutrogena Invisible Daily Defense
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheen

Why You Need a Revered Benzene Lawsuit Attorney in Your Corner

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, MDS, multiple myeloma due to benzene exposure or you think your environment has been contaminated by benzene, you may be eligible for a benzene lawsuit. 

Contacting a benzene lawsuit attorney is the first step towards getting a compensation value that tallies your losses from benzene exposure. 

For starters, a benzene lawsuit lawyer will aid you with all the legal paperwork that needs to be filed. 

You’ll also need an attorney in your corner to negotiate settlement dutifully with the sophisticated legal teams from the defendant’s side. 

To represent you adequately, your attorney might ask the following questions:

What Do You Do for Work? 

People who work in factories, refineries, oil rigs and similar environments are at higher risk of long-term exposure to benzene. 

Thus, your lawyer will need to know if you work in any of the aforementioned environments.

How Many Years Have You Worked at Your Job?

You may be eligible for a benzene lawsuit if you have been working at your job for up to one year. 

The attorney may also request to speak with your current and former employers to get information that can help establish a link between your condition and your exposure to benzene. 

What Is Your Cancer Diagnosis?

The type of cancer you have been diagnosed with will also help determine whether you can file a benzene lawsuit case. Your attorney may also request a copy of your medical records to determine your family medical history and treatments you have received.

Can You Access Your Medical Records?

A lawyer will demand to see all your medical records related to your leukemia or cancer diagnosis. Typically, your medical records should include: 

  • Tests involved in diagnosing the cancer 
  • Diagnosis date
  • Treatment forms administered since detection

Can You Create a List of Employers You’ve Worked for (Past and Present)?

By forming a list of all the firms you’ve worked for (past and present), an attorney can create a link between the benzene exposure levels in those companies and your current leukemia diagnosis. 

See If You Can File

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