Attorney Blog

Exposure to Benzene in Gasoline in Louisiana


By Glenn C. McGovern, Attorney
Metairie, La.

The other day I opened the gas tank of my motorcycle to refuel it. The gas tank has a race style large opening. The gas pump handle did not have any covering to prevent emissions of the gasoline while filling the gas tank. I got a good whiff of the gasoline vapors that made me throw my head back to avoid more fumes. I notice in other states gasoline pump handles have large flexible covers to stop vapors from going in the air. (Some states, like California, require these to reduce the gasoline fumes from going in the air.) Benzene is a known carcinogen that causes Leukemia including the rare acute myleogenous leukemia (AML) and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Exposure levels as low a 5 years can cause cancers. Benzene may affect bone marrow and blood production. Federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), had issued a report on benzene. The ATSDR paper describes the toxicological properties of benzene and some of the harm to animals and humans the authors conclude is caused by exposure to benzene .
I did some research. I found that gasoline manufacturers have been greatly exceeding the federal rules for safe limits for Benzene in gasoline at the gasoline pumps. The victims have filed suits in federal court for this excessive exposure to Benzene in violation of federal EPA limits for Benzene exposure. These lawsuits are not being dismissed before trial. There is scientific support for Benzene exposure causes cancers and leukemia. This means anyone with motorcycles, gas cans, lawnmowers, generators, fishing boats workers, plant workers and any man, woman or child that fill up gas cans or any vehicles on a regular basis have a greater risk exposure to gasoline. Motorcyclists and the public are being exposed to excessive amounts of Benzene at the retail gas pumps in Louisiana. Benzene is colorless with a sweet odor. Benzene is in the top 20 chemicals produced.
There is more and more research in peer-reviewed articles about the dangers of exposure to Benzene. The government limits the amount of Benzene in gasoline, but recent litigation has shown some unsettling issues. There have been more cases settled with workers exposed to excessive exposure to Benzene in the workplace such as chemical plants, factories offshore, and refineries. But now we are seeing consumers filing suits that excessive Benzene exposure from gasoline and products that lead to Benzene related diseases and death. EPA has changed the safety standards for Benzene exposure over the years. Each time, the EPA has drastically lowered the limits for human exposure to Benzene. Benzene exposure, which is now clearly linked to several diseases.
In one such study by researchers Savitz, D., and Andrews, K.,"Review of Epidemiologic Evidence on Benzene and Lymphatic and Hematopoietic Cancers," Amer. J. Industrial Health 31:287-295 (1997) linked Benzene to leukemia, cancers and various blood disorders.
Benzene has a long history in the medical literature. Even in the 1920s, Benzene was linked to leukemia in a published study. The American Petroleum Institute noted in the 1940s benzene caused leukemia noted that any level of exposure to benzene posed risks.
Aplastic Anemia - This condition affects the blood cells and can also evolve into multiple forms of blood and bone marrow cancers.
Multiple Myeloma - This is another disease of the blood that affects the bones and other vital organs of the body.
Lymphomas - Lymphomas are cancers that affect the immune system and cells in the lymphatic system of the body. Specific types of Lymphomas include:
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL),
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL),
Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL), and many others.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) - AML is an aggressive, slow developing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. AML is the type of leukemia that is most strongly associated with Benzene exposure.
Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) - Benzene is linked to MDS, which encompasses a group of diseases that affect the blood and bone marrow in different ways. Various other forms of blood and bone marrow diseases fall under the MDS category.
Be careful in the transfer of gasoline in the retail and workplace. Wear protective chemical gloves and avoid direct contact with gasoline. (Latex gloves will not offer protection.) Immediately clean any spills on your skin or area near you. It is absorbed in the skin rapidly so avoid spills on your skin. Avoid breathing in vapors when refueling at gas stations and when working on vehicles and transfers of fuel into containers.