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Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a benzene-related cancer that forms in plasma cells.  Plasma cells arise in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system because they provide antibodies which help fight infections and other diseases. Cancerous plasma cells are called myelomas. An individual with multiple myeloma has an abnormal build-up of myeloma cells in the bone marrow which eventually crowd out healthy cells, leading to fatigue, an inability to fight infections, and kidney damage.  These cancerous cells also cause damage to bones, increasing the risk of broken bones.

Who is at Risk for Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple myeloma often begins as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a condition in which an abnormal protein is in your plasma cells. In the United States, about 3% of people over the age of 50 have MGUS. Although MGUS does not typically cause any problems, about 1% of people with MGUS will develop multiple myeloma.

Further, it is well-documented in epidemiological studies that certain work-related exposures to toxins can lead to multiple myeloma. Excess cases of multiple myeloma have been observed in workers exposed to several toxic substances, including:

  • Benzene
  • Solvents
  • Pesticides
  • Engine Exhausts
  • Ionizing Radiation

Individuals who work as firefighters, petroleum workers and farmers (to name a few), are at increased risk for developing multiple myeloma. Lastly, multiple myeloma can have a long latency period, which means that a diagnosis can result from exposures that occurred many years earlier.

What are the Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma?

Signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma may include bone pain, nausea, fatigue, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, mental fogginess or confusion, weakness or numbness in legs, and excessive thirst.

Diagnosing Multiple Myeloma

To diagnose multiple myeloma, doctors may run blood tests, urine tests, imaging tests, or bone marrow tests.

Treatment Options

Although unfortunately complete remission is rare in multiple myeloma, standard therapy involves targeted therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplant, or corticosteroids. These treatment options can have serious side effects including premature diabetes, heart disease or neurological problems.  Chemotherapy agents have a wide array of risks, including renal insufficiency and peripheral neuropathy.

Benzene-related Multiple Myeloma Verdict and Settlement Results

$6,960,000 verdict for families of three decedents (California, 2000)

The three decedents worked as the Southland Distribution Facility as diesel mechanics.  Between 1990 and 1991, they applied two floor coating products, Select Poly-Kote GC and Select Glaze GP 65, to the floor of the mechanic’s area at work and were not provided with adequate safety equipment when they used these products.  The fumes that emanated from these two products after they were applied to the floor made decedents physically ill.  One of the diesel mechanics was diagnosed with liver cancer in March 1991 and died on June 16, 1991. A second diesel mechanic was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in October 1991 and died on September 23, 1993. The third diesel mechanic was diagnosed with lung cancer and died on January 16, 1995.  The decedents’ surviving family members brought suit against the defendant for product liability.

$1,000,000 verdict against Dow Chemical Co., et al. (Rhode Island, 1996)

From 1968 to 1972, plaintiff was in his late teens and worked as a tree sprayer.  He was allegedly exposed to unsafe levels of the toxic herbicide chemical 245T manufactured by DOW company. Plaintiff claims his exposure to the toxins in the herbicide caused him to develop multiple myeloma. The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded $1,000,000.

Undisclosed Settlement Amount (Louisiana, 2011)

Plaintiff laborers worked for Olin Kraft Plant. They used benzene and benzene-containing products on a regular basis to perform various tasks such as cleaning, washing, preparation, gluing maintenance, and other jobs.  Plaintiffs claim that as a result of their daily exposure to benzene they suffered various injuries, including multiple myeloma, myelodysplastic syndrome, physical and mental pain, and other maladies.  The parties reached a settlement for an unknown amount.

Undisclosed Settlement Amount re:  Liquid Wrench (Louisiana, 2016)

From 1968 to 1987, plaintiff worked as a millwright and millwright’s apprentice.  During his career, plaintiff used a product called “Liquid Wrench” which contained benzene.  Plaintiff was also exposed to toluene and xylene solvents, gasoline, propylene, and butadiene.  Plaintiff claimed his regular exposure to benzene and other toxins resulted in his diagnosis of multiple myeloma.  The parties reached a settlement for an unknown amount.

Safety-Kleen Settlement (California, 2012)

Plaintiff worked as a mechanic for various companies from 1982 to 2008.  Plaintiff claimed he worked with Safety-Kleen solvents which contained multiple carcinogens and other toxic chemicals, including benzene.  Plaintiff sustained serious injuries to his internal organs and was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  Plaintiff claimed his multiple myeloma was caused by his exposure to benzene and other toxic chemicals. The parties settled outside of court.

Shell Oil Co. Settlement (Louisiana, 2009)

From 1967 to 1986 and from 1996 to 1997, Plaintiff’s husband worked as a pipe fitter, mechanic and plumber.  Plaintiff sued defendants after her husband was exposed to defendants’ benzene and benzene-containing products during his career. Plaintiff alleged her husband’s exposure to benzene and benzene-containing products caused him to contract multiple myeloma. The parties reached a settlement for an unknown amount.

The epidemiological studies show significant increased risk of mortality from multiple myeloma for individuals exposed to benzene.  If you suspect that your multiple myeloma diagnosis or that of a loved one is related to previous toxic exposures, call 1-800-BENZENE today for your free consultation.  All consultations are with an attorney.

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