An increasing number of scientific studies link Benzene and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies Benzene as a top-level human carcinogen.
Increased risks of leukemia, mainly Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), have been reported among workers with high levels of Benzene exposure in the chemical and petroleum industries.
Long-term studies of workers at three Ohio plants, which produced rubber sheeting with a benzene solvent provided the first medical evidence that Benzene causes cancer.
More recently, the National Cancer Institute and the Chinese Academy of preventative medicine conducted a long term study of over 74,000 workers at over 600 factories and found elevated cancer risks in auto mechanics, rubber and tire workers, paper mill workers and printers, gas truck driver and gas station employees.
The American Public Health Association reports that three million workers in United States at auto mechanic and repair shops, gas stations, shipping loading docks, paint manufacturing plants, printers, gas truck drivers, and rubber manufacturing facilities are at risk.
Toxic exposure at the workplace has been a growing area of litigation in recent years as more and more people develop related cancers and conditions. The Lyon Firm is dedicated to assisting in filing wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits against negligent employers and companies who fail to protect their workers.
What is Benzene?
Benzene, also known as benzol, is a highly-flammable hydrocarbon liquid that is colorless and has a sweet odor. Benzene is used primarily as a solvent in oil, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. It is a natural component of crude oil, which is currently the main source of Benzene.
Benzene is used to make other chemicals for use in materials such as plastics, various resins, nylon, other synthetic fibers, some types of rubber, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.
Because of Benzene’s wide range of use, the chemical ranks high in American production volume, endangering many thousands of workers and residents in Ohio and around the country.
Benzene is a natural element of crude oil, though it is usually synthesized from other compounds present in petroleum. The chemical is regularly used as a substitute for lead, and Benzene now makes up to two percent of every gallon of gasoline.
Based on evidence from past and recent studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified Benzene as “carcinogenic to humans.” The agency reported that Benzene directly causes acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
The U.S National Toxicology Program (NTP), formed from several U.S government agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has classified Benzene as “known to be a human carcinogen.”
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also followed suit with its own warning and classifies Benzene as a known human carcinogen. The EPA has published studies that report Benzene is one of the most significant air toxins, and may contribute for up to 25 percent of the average individual cancer risk.
Tire Production & Rubber Workers
For decades, Akron, Ohio was known as the “Rubber Capital of the World.” The northeast Ohio region once held almost half of the state’s polymer industry, which accounted for a large part of America’s tire and rubber manufacturing.
However, one of the great downfalls of the tire and rubber industry was the fact that thousands of former tire and rubber workers in Akron and elsewhere in Ohio were exposed to toxic materials at the workplace, including Benzene, which is known to cause cancers like Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) and Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Benzene has been a concern for medical experts for many decades. The chemical is known to cause several forms of cancers and blood disorders in employees with chronic benzene exposure.
But even with the knowledge that their workers were exposed to toxins at Ohio tire and rubber plants, corporations continued to manufacture dangerous products, failed to warn employees of the health risks, and failed to offer workers proper protection against the cancer-causing exposure.
How Are Rubber Workers Exposed?
The production of tires and certain rubber products involves subjecting dangerous mixtures of hundreds of chemicals to heat and pressure during a variety of manufacturing processes. As a result, work environments are regularly contaminated with toxic dusts, gases, vapors, fumes, and chemical byproducts.
Exposure to Benzene in Ohio tire and rubber manufacturing remains a serious occupational health concern. Workers are exposed to Benzene by skin contact or inhalation.
Aside from several cancers, rubber manufacturing work is associated with a high prevalence of dermatologic diseases such as eczema, allergic contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.
Benzene causes bodily harm by damaging blood cells. The chemical can cause bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. It can also damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and the loss of white blood cells. The health effects of Benzene depend on the amount, route, and duration of exposure.
Cancer cases and deaths have been reported from hundreds of former rubber and tire workers. Cancers affect the blood, bladder, stomach, lung, and other areas of the body among workers involved in the manufacture of tires and other rubber products. Rubber workers in Ohio may also risk respiratory disease, heart disease, dermatologic diseases, and negative reproductive defects.
Rubber Additives & Cancer-Causing Toxins
Many rubber production steps use heat in the process, allowing benzene and other fumes to escape from the products. Workers near the production line while rubber products or tires are being manufactured are subject to inhaling high amounts of benzene during their shifts. Some agents that may contain toxins include the following:
• Oils (process and extender)
• Organic vulcanizers
• Pigment blends
• Antitack agents
• Chemical byproducts
• Reinforcing agents
• Curing fumes
List of Ohio Tire and Rubber Companies
The following Ohio tire and rubber manufacturers may have put workers at a high risk of developing some forms of cancer like Acute Myeloid Leukemia after exposure to Benzene and other dangerous toxins:
• B.F. Goodrich
• Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
• Firestone Tire & Rubber Company
• Bridgestone Tires
• Wilson Tire Company
• Ohio Rubber Co.
• RCA Rubber Co.
• Custom Rubber Corp.
• BRP Manufacturing Co.
• Lauren Manufacturing Co.
• Universal Polymer & Rubber
• Keener Rubber
Benzene is a highly volatile chemical, and most exposure is seen through inhalation. Industrial processes are the primary sources and concerns for worker exposure.
Benzene occurs naturally in crude petroleum so almost any level of activity that includes petroleum products can lead to dangerous exposure. Any workplace activity that includes the processing of petroleum products, coking of coal, and use of industrial and consumer products, gasoline and heating oils, can lead to exposure. Industrial discharge, landfill leachate and disposals of benzene containing waste are also sources of toxic exposure.
Industries and companies that may expose workers to Benzene include the following:
• Petrochemical companies
• Petroleum refining
• Auto mechanics
• Rubber tire manufacturing
• Benzene storage facilities
• Paper Mill workers and printers
• Shoe makers
• Laboratory technicians
• Gas station employees & gas trucks drivers
Rubber Products Contain Benzene
Employees of rubber and tire manufacturing facilities on the production line have an increased risk of developing complications and diseases from benzene exposure.
Benzene-containing products are used in numerous steps during the production of the rubber and tires, and toxins are potentially released into the air around the following product lines:
- Inner tubes
- Rubber and plastic footwear
- Rubber and plastic hoses
- Rubber belting
- Sealing devices
- Molded, extruded, and lathe-cut rubber mechanical goods
- Other fabricated rubber products
Cancer Linked to Benzene
A worker exposed to benzene for 40 years at the workplace is 155 times more likely to die from leukemia than an unexposed worker. Auto mechanics, printers, barge workers, petrochemical workers, and gas truck drivers are at risk.
Workers that maintain rubber manufacturing equipment and clean the facility are also at risk for long term benzene exposure and related cancers. Although they may not be working on the production line or directly handling products containing benzene, they are exposed in an environment with a concentration of airborne benzene fumes.
Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 5 million Americans, not including those with workplace exposures, face increased cancer risks from benzene and over 60 other common carcinogens. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause AML and MDS. Benzene is associated with the following types of cancer:
What is AML?
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) represents the most common acute leukemia in adults. Approximately 13,400 new cases of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) are diagnosed annually, which accounts for less than one percent of all cancers and around 34 percent of all leukemia cases.
AML has a slight male predominance. Incidences of AML are relatively rare below the age of 40, and increases progressively with age. The median diagnosed AML patient age is 65 years. New studies suggest workers and residents near industrial areas are at a heightened risk of AML and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Cincinnati Personal Injury Lawyer who has represented individuals nationwide in toxic tort claims. If you have been exposed to Benzene, and have questions about your legal rights, please contact The Lyon Firm.
Ohio residents who live near industrial areas where the air contains Benzene face a higher risk of developing cancer, according to a 2013 study. Researchers at Emory University found that the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was higher near industrial facilities that emitted Benzene, which bolsters previous studies that link Benzene to other forms of cancer.
The study, published in the journal Cancer, raises more concerns about the toxic chemical that is found in a number of materials including crude oil and gasoline.
According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, more than 30 businesses were emitting Benzene, among other dangerous air pollutants. The EPA listed Chem Dyne in Hamilton, Ohio as one of its Superfund cleanup sites due to toxic contamination of benzene, asbestos and other chemicals.
Recent research has shown that parental occupational exposure to Benzene can play a role in causing childhood leukemia. The effects from exposure to Benzene can vary among sub-populations like children and infants, and potentially even more dangerous.
It is theorized that children may have a higher level of chemical exposure because of their heightened activity patterns which may increase their exposures. This could translate into a greater risk of leukemia and other toxic effects to children if they are exposed to Benzene at any level.
Infants and children may be more vulnerable because of their fragile chemical makeup while they are still undergoing maturation.
Benzene Safety Studies
The WHO cancer agency may have left out key findings in recent studies, and the reasons are unknown. In an important Benzene review, the agency allegedly–according to Consumer Advocate attorneys–underplayed human exposure to the carcinogenic chemical benzene.
This news comes at a time when millions of workers around the world, including car mechanics, cabinet makers, and various painters all using Benzene products (adhesives, asphalt, solvents, and cleaning agents), often in poorly ventilated ventilated factories and shops, could be at risk of serious harm from Benzene and other toxic chemicals.
The IARC is an international organization funded by 24 member States since 1985, and it has received $48 million from American taxpayers the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Ohio Benzene Lawsuits
Numerous lawsuits from injured claimants have successfully settled, and reached jury verdicts, alleging that benzene exposure caused multiple forms of cancer.
In 2016, a PA court found U.S. Steel liable for the cancer of an ex-employee. Benzene cases are notoriously complex, each requiring an experienced benzene attorney, with expertise in toxic exposure litigation.
In 2020 and beyond, attorneys are reviewing hundreds of cancer cases related to toxic workplace exposure. In Ohio, the industries linked to unsafe workplaces have been targeted in personal injury lawsuits, and companies have been held responsible.
Despite environmental regulation, toxic exposure to Benzene and other industrial chemicals in the workplace has become a public health concern and an expanding area of class-action litigation.
Research, past and present, supports evidence that Benzene causes specific related illnesses, including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and other identifiable blood disorders.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), as many as 238,000 people may be occupationally exposed to Benzene in the United States.
Even though Benzene is less common than it once was, related cancer cases are on the rise, possibly from long-term workplace benzene exposure over the last 50 years.