Five Worst Dangers Of Benzene Exposure

Benzene is a petroleum-based industrial solvent that, until rather recently, was also used in after-shave lotions, decaffeinated coffee, unleaded gasoline, and consumer solvents like spot removers and paint strippers. As early as the 1940s, researchers identified benzene as one of the most dangerous products in the world. In fact, an industry group noted that “the only absolutely safe concentration for benzene is zero.”

Nevertheless, largely because replacement chemicals were more costly and/or somewhat less effective, manufacturers kept using it in significant quantities until the 1970s, and even today, despite the clear risks, federal safety watchdogs routinely overlook low-level benzene levels in workplace.

The chemical quickly evaporates and the toxic fumes target the brain, heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Moreover, many researchers believe that benzene alters cellular DNA, which is why long term exposure to the chemical is associated with various serious illnesses that may also be fatal.



Chronic myeloid leukemia is one of the most difficult blood cancers to diagnose, since the red blood cells appear normal for quite some time and patients only have vague physical symptoms, such as fatigue or bloating.

Doctors do not know what causes CML, but they do know that long term exposure to even low levels of benzene fumes is one of the leading risk factors. In fact, the most recent research indicates that there is a clear connection between the two. This 2012 study follows an earlier study which found a 400 percent increase in CML diagnoses related to benzene exposure, as well as a frightening 20 percent fatality rate.

Because it is so difficult to identify, CML is usually in its late stages by the time the victims start appropriate treatment and management plans. Even if successful, such therapy is very expensive and usually results in permanent loss of enjoyment in life. So, compensation for all these losses is available in court.


Skin Cancer

Because it has such a high octane level, benzene is a mainstay at many oil refineries, because workers add this chemical to gasoline before it gets to the pump. The danger is significant not only for facility employees, but also for other people who live and work in the area, because even a tiny leak spews toxic fumes into the surrounding air.

An exhaustive Norwegian study, which examined North Sea oil workers who passed through the area between 1965 and 1998, found that they have seven times more skin cancer diagnoses, mostly on their hands and forearms. Furthermore, according to these scientists, the risk of disease is directly related to the length of benzene exposure.


Birth Defects

Since dangerous benzene fumes retain all their toxicity as they travel through the bloodstream, these fumes are especially harmful to vulnerable fetuses, which are completely dependent on their mothers for all their physical needs. A recent study that examined pregnant Texas women who had been exposed to benzene fumes found that their babies had a greatly increased risk of:

  • Neural Tube Defects: Usually in the first four weeks after conception, the baby’s nervous system does not form properly, leading to long-term effects like paralysis as well as a greater incidence of fetal demise and stillbirth.
  • Spina Bifida: If the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and backbone do not completely close, the baby will probably experience symptoms like permanent mobility impairment, loss of bowel/bladder functions, and perhaps even serious learning disabilities.
  • VLBW Babies: Very low birth weight infants are at risk for chronic breathing problems. They also have issues keeping themselves warm and gaining weight, making them even more vulnerable to disease and infection.

Most of these women lived near petrochemical refineries.

Genetic Abnormalities

Most likely because it causes genetic mutations, benzene causes aneuploid (irregular chromosome count) in male sperm. This condition is the leading cause of miscarriages. It is also linked to retarded fetal development and male fertility issues.

Aneuploidy may also cause Klinefelter Syndrome, which is also known as XXY Syndrome. Male children have an additional X chromosome, a condition which causes male breast enlargement and low testosterone levels. These men also have essentially no sperm, a condition which means permanent infertility.

Bone Marrow Issues

Multiple laboratory tests have established that benzene triggers chromosomal changes in bone marrow, limiting its ability to produce red blood cells. These individuals not only are less able to fight off even low-grade infections, they are also more susceptible to leukemia.

Even expensive and risky bone marrow transplants offer no guarantees, which is why legal compensation tends to be significant in these benzene exposure cases as well.

Contact Aggressive Lawyers

Benzene is one of the most commonly-used chemicals in the United States and also one of the most dangerous ones. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.