Illinois Benzene Attorneys
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Benzene is a petroleum based chemical that is both naturally occurring and manufactured from sources such as coal tar. Benzene is a clear to pale yellow liquid at room temperature and has a sweet smelling odor. Benzene evaporates into the surrounding air. It is widely used in industrial applications and in the production of consumer products. The chemical is used to make other chemicals, plastics, dyes, paints, rubber, pesticides, and drugs to name few. Benzene can also be found naturally in crude oil, gasoline, and is a produced as a by-product of burning natural substances, such as tobacco, trees in forest fires, and volcano eruptions. Benzene use is highly regulated and is a known carcinogen (cancer causing agent). Exposure to benzene can lead to short term and long term health effects, including leukemia, lung cancer, and anemia.
Benzene Product Sources and Exposure Risks
Benzene exposure occurs through inhalation of benzene vapors, skin contact, or through ingestion. Outdoor air contains relatively low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, car emissions, and industrial plant pollution. Because gasoline contains benzene, outdoor areas around gas stations have higher levels of evaporated benzene. When products containing benzene are used indoors, levels can quickly escalate. Soil contamination through a leaking underground storage tank or through an industrial spill can contaminate well water used for drinking, farming, or cooking.
Benzene is used in industrial and commercial manufacturing and applications. Workers in these industries can be exposed to a variety of benzene containing products. Products such as paint, detergents, varnishes, furniture waxes, solvents such as paint thinner, and degreasers may likely contain benzene. Railroad workers who work with oil based products such as lubricants and who are exposed to diesel exhaust, gasoline distribution and delivery workers, painters, printers, farmers working with pesticides, auto mechanics who work with oil based products, laboratory workers, and workers exposed to adhesives are some of the people who are at risk for benzene exposure.
Persons who do not work directly in an industry where benzene products are used can just as easily come into contact with it through the everyday use of these products, in gardening, automotive repair, home improvement through paints, glues, and solvents, and through the use of cleaning products to name a few.
What Are the Symptoms Benzene Exposure?
Short-term effects of breathing in benzene vapors include: nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, headache, rapid heartbeat, tremors, confusion, unconsciousness, and at high levels, even death. Ingestion of benzene causes similar symptoms, however, it may also include vomiting and convulsions. Benzene contact with the skin can cause irritation and tissue damage. If you have been exposed to benzene, it is recommended that you immediately remove yourself to fresh air and seek medical attention. If your skin comes in contact with benzene, washing thoroughly with soap and water is recommended. Benzene can be detected shortly after exposure through breath tests and urine tests. However, there is no real antidote to benzene exposure, except hospital care and monitoring.
Long-term benzene exposure generally targets the blood. Benzene affects the cells in your body and causes the cells to malfunction. For instance, benzene can affect the bone marrow and the production of red blood cells, which can cause anemia and lead to excessive bleeding, bruising, and infection. Women may experience irregular menstrual cycles, and exposure may cause birth defects such as delayed bone formation and bone marrow damage.
Cancers and Chronic Illnesses Associated with Benzene Exposure
Benzene exposure has also been linked to cancer including lung cancer and various types of leukemia, a cancer that affects the white or red blood cells and the blood production centers of the body (bone marrow). Exposure to benzene can cause Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer affecting the white blood cells and the lymphatic system.
These cancers are life threatening, and some are more so than others. Symptoms for leukemia include: fever and chills, night sweats, weakness and fatigue, sudden weight loss, swollen lymph nodes and spleen, and bone pain. Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma symptoms are similar but also include swollen lymph nodes in the neck, abdominal pain and trouble breathing, coughing and chest pain. Physical examination including blood tests, bone marrow biopsies, and lymph node biopsies are used to diagnose these cancers. A wait-and-see approach might be used if the lymphoma is slow growing. The usual treatment options, however, include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow and stem cell transplants, and therapy to increase the body’s immune system to fight off the cancer.
Furthermore, Myelodysplastic Syndrome can result from benzene exposure. Myelodysplastic Syndrome is a disorder that affects the bone marrow and results in the production of defective and immature red blood cells. Although not a cancer, having this syndrome can increase the risk of developing leukemia. Fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin color, and frequent infection are all symptoms of Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Blood tests and bone marrow biopsies are the usual methods of diagnosis. Treatment includes blood transfusions, medications to increase the production of red blood cells, immunosuppressant drugs, stem cell and bone marrow transplants.
Time Limitations to File and Attorney’s Fees
If you are diagnosed with a suspected benzene related illness such as a form of cancer or condition discussed above and wish to file a lawsuit against your employer or other business, we recommend contacting an attorney as soon as possible. The time limit to file on product liability cases is two years after the diagnosis. If a loved one has died from a benzene related illness, the same time limitations usually apply.
Your attorney will almost always work on a contingency basis. This means that you will not pay any attorneys’ fees unless you obtain a recovery. Also, you do not have to put up any money up front. Your attorneys should advance all of the associated litigation costs. This includes all costs of expert witnesses, who your case will rely on to establish that the product contained benzene. Product testing and chemists may have to be retained to help with your case. If you win, all fees, costs, and expenses will come from the recovery amount.
Choosing an Attorney
If you or a loved one has contracted a benzene related illness, we know attorneys throughout the state who specialize and are successful in benzene and product liability claims. Because the attorneys we recommend pay the up-front costs in product liability cases, attorneys are selective, and will discuss the probable success and financial implications with you on an individual basis.
If you would like our help in finding a law firm that specializes in benzene or product liability in Illinois, please contact us at (800) 517-1614. We will speak with you free of charge and put forth all our effort to assist you. All calls are free and confidential.