Industry’s which involve highly toxic chemicals have a huge responsibility, not only with respect to the environment, but also with respect to government regulators and the public. Carelessness in industry can, of course, result in serious environmental pollution and adverse health effects.
Benzene exposure is one of the possible effects of environmental contamination which can result in particularly serious consequences for exposure victims. Benzene exposure, as some readers may know, increases the risk of cancer and other illnesses among those exposed to it, including leukemia.
Benzene exposure is not uncommon in the workplace, particularly among those who work in oil refineries and other work environments where benzene contamination is prevalent. Much less prevalent is environmental benzene exposure, though it does occur. An example of this is a lawsuit filed in 2011 by the parents of a young boy who developed leukemia. According to that lawsuit, the cancer was caused by benzene exposure connected to close-proximity large bulk-oil terminals.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, the connection between childhood leukemia and benzene exposure may be something that the petrochemical industry has known about for some time, though the industry itself may be reluctant to admit the link. The EPA is aware of the risk and passed a regulation earlier this year which requires refineries to increase their monitoring for benzene contamination. Regulators are sure to continue monitoring the issue.
Environmental benzene exposure, despite its relative rarity, is a perfect example of why ordinary people need to be aware of the potential impact industry has upon their health. Industries need to be continually held accountable for their impact upon public health, particularly when they fail to abide by environmental regulations. Those who suffer adverse health effects should be sure to work with an experienced environmental law attorney to ensure their rights are protected and their interests are advocated over against the interests of the petrochemical industry.
Source: Yahoo News, “New battlefront for petrochemical industry: benzene and childhood leukemia,” Kristen Lombardi, Dec. 8, 2014.