Benzene — it is clear, it is a hydrocarbon, and it is found in several products we take for granted. Some of the places benzene is used is in fuel, waxes, oils, paint, plastic, and rubber. Benzene is also used when manufacturing various drugs, detergents, and dyes. Unfortunately, as many have learned, benzene is also a carcinogen.
Testing and Medical Conditions Associated with Benzene Exposure
While blood or breath tests may be used to measure our level of exposure to benzene, there is a timing problem. Only in cases where these tests are done shortly after exposure are the tests helpful in determining levels. Because benzene is a known carcinogen, this is problematic on many levels.
According to the EPA Risk Assessment Guidelines of 1986, and other studies, benzene exposure has been linked to the potential of leukemia in several forms including:
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL)
- Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
- Myelodysplastic Syndrome / Myelodyplasia (MDS)
How Victims are Exposed to Benzene
Benzene can be absorbed via the bloodstream due to inhalation of vapors, or through the skin. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets acceptable exposure at one part per million from airborne sources. The most vulnerable populations are those individuals who work in companies that either manufacture or use benzene and they are likely exposed at high levels. The general population may be exposed due to contamination of drinking water, inhaling exhaust fumes, or from burning coal or oil. This exposure could increase the likelihood of a victim of exposure contracting acute myeloid leukemia. Some of the potential exposure dangers include:
- Industrial Plants — when someone works in an industrial setting where benzene is in the chemicals they use, they are at higher risk. This includes manufacturing facilities for products like plastics, lubricants, rubbers, nylons, resins, pesticides, various solvents, certain dyes, and degreasers.
- Railway Workers — those who work on railways may also suffer extended benzene exposure. Allen Berger & Associates realizes the serious risks these employees take daily, regardless of whether they are handling some of the chemicals associated with AML. Some of the danger points include diesel exposure, use of degreasers, mineral spirits, and solvents.
- Firefighters — according to the CDC firefighters may face serious risk of benzene exposure while fighting fires, particularly when there is a vehicle fire. Even structure fires have the potential to cause prolonged exposure to benzene in firefighters.
- Factory Workers — shoe shops often depend on various solvents to complete the assembly of shoes. This can lead to AML in workers who regularly use solvents and other chemicals which are used in the manufacturing process.
These are not the only workers who are at risk of exposure to benzene, those who work in the fuel distribution field including gas station attendants could be inhaling unsafe levels of benzene over the course of their normal workday.
Understanding and Diagnosing AML
Aggressive bone marrow cancer is the best definition of AML. In effect, benzene exposure causes a mutation in the blood cells and causes a slowdown in their development. This lack of proper maturing means the cells are unable to be effective in stemming other diseases which means they could multiply faster than normal and ultimately cause cancer.
Potential symptoms are often ignored initially, or completely overlooked. Some of the most common symptoms of AML include:
- An increase in bruising — oftentimes, someone who takes physician ordered aspirin or blood thinner on a regular basis may overlook bruising since this is a common issue with these medications. However, this may be an early symptom of AML.
- Unintentional weight loss — many of us have weight fluctuations throughout the year. While there may be other health conditions which lead to a sudden and unexpected loss of weight, AML could be the reason for a sudden drop.
- High fever — people often have a low-grade fever following a cold, during allergy season, or when exposed to the flu. However, adults should always take a high fever seriously as they could be potentially life-threatening. Should you spike a high fever and be an employee with a known exposure to benzene, you should receive an AML screening.
- Fatigue — normal fatigue can be a result of poor sleeping habits, poor dietary habits, stress, and depression. However, when fatigue is accompanied by other symptoms including night sweats and other AML symptoms, you should advise your physician if your job has led you to be exposed to benzene.
Because of the dangers and the rapidity of the spreading of AML, it is important to identify this disease and begin treatment as soon as possible. Typically, diagnosis is done through a combination of blood and bone marrow tests. In some instances, lumbar punctures, imaging tests, and cytogenetic testing may also be used.
Treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Unlike other cancers, AML has no “grading” system. Treatment options will vary depending on whether AML has spread to other parts of the body. Make sure you seek the proper medical care if you have been diagnosed with AML and we encourage you to decide which AML treatment option is best for your situation. Some of the options you will be presented with include chemotherapy treatment, stem cell transplants, radiation therapy, or a more targeted therapy.
Keep in mind, during treatment, you will have to take extra steps to help you feel better. This may include improving your diet, keeping well hydrated, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and staying active. All of these may be challenging since treatments will take a heavy toll on you leaving you feeling weak, tired, and potentially causing side effects like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. You may wish to consult with your medical team should any of these symptoms worsen to see if there is a way to mitigate them.
Your physical health is not the only change you may notice deteriorating after you are diagnosed with AML. Remember, it is perfectly normal to feel anxious, be angry, scared, or stressed following a diagnosis. If any of these feelings seem to be getting out of control, yo should consult with your medical team and discuss potentially visiting with a mental health professional. Remember, your mental health may play a factor in your recovery.
Taking Legal Action Following Diagnosis
If you were diagnosed with AML and you believe your exposure to benzene may have been a contributing factor, you may wish to consult with a lawyer who has experience handling complex cases. Allen Berger & Associates wants you to be aware they have never been afraid to take on complicated personal injury lawsuits. In fact, we have taken on medical malpractice suits, cases involving workplace accidents, and more. We understand what it takes to thoroughly advocate for our clients, and we know what investigations must take place to solidify your claim.
We are sometimes asked what types of damages people are entitled to when filing a benzene exposure lawsuit. As with all types of personal injury cases, there is no hard and fast answer. Every case is different and there are several factors which must be considered before determining the value of a claim. However, you may be entitled to be reimbursed for some of the following:
- Lost wages — you may be entitled to collect any lost wages including those you lose during treatment as well as wages lost in the future should you be unable to return to work.
- Medical costs — your treatment costs may also be compensable. This may include visits to specialists, tests, prescription drugs, treatment of AML, and transportation to and from medical visits.
- Other costs — any costs which were unexpected such as household help which can be attributed to your AML diagnosis may be eligible for compensation.
Receiving a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia is not easy on you or your family. You probably have a lot of questions and feel very uncertain. You are concerned about your family’s finances while you receive treatment and focus on your recovery. While you may think filing a lawsuit is a waste of time and money, you may be able to help alleviate some of your financial concerns if you are successful in filing a suit.
Allan Berger & Associates is also aware you have concerns about paying legal fees at a time when you are facing mounting medical expenses, you are likely out of work for an extended period of time to avoid other infections, and there is a danger you will have to tap into your savings to supplement any payments you may get from disability, sick time, or other benefits. Let us reassure you — we take cases on a contingency basis. What this means for you is we will work on your case without legal fees until such time as we are able to secure a settlement on your behalf. Once a settlement is obtained, we will take a portion of the settlement as our fee. We will negotiate the fee with you before we pursue your case.
If you, or a loved one has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia as a result of benzene exposure, contact Allan Berger & Associates at 504-526-2222 today and schedule a free consultation. Let us advocate on your behalf while you take time to receive treatment and recover.
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