Benzene Injury Law

Benzene in Paint Thinner

Benzene in Paint Thinner Increases Risk of Cancer

The benzene in paint, varnish, thinners, and paint strippers may increase the risk of leukemia for painters and contractors who have long-term exposure to various paint products. 

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    What is Benzene?

    Benzene is primarily a colorless, sweet-smelling, highly flammable chemical with a high evaporation rate. Its vapor is heavier than air, and therefore may fall to rest in low-lying areas. It floats on top of water, dissolving only slightly, and when at room temperature is a light yellow liquid. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies benzene as a known carcinogen, alongside asbestos and plutonium.

    Types of Cancer Caused by Benzene

    Chronic exposure to paint thinning and stripping products that contain benzene put those exposed at elevated risk for various blood and bone marrow cancers. Some of these include acute myeloid leukemia (AML), multiple myeloma, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

    Because benzene is a naturally occurring component of petroleum, products that are derived from petroleum will, in whole or in part, contain some level of benzene. Such is the case with paint thinners and strippers, which are petroleum distillates. While the levels of accepted benzene in products has been reduced, it is still not safe to be exposed to even trace amounts.


    How Does Benzene Exposure Happen?

    Dangerous exposure to benzene in paint thinners or strippers can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the skin. Inhalation is the most common type of exposure due to the evaporation rate of petroleum distillates. Almost half of inhaled benzene finds its way into the bloodstream.

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    Inhalation Exposure

    Benzene vapors can be inhaled directly into the lungs as soon as the chemical hits the air, making exposure difficult to avoid. Case studies show that long-term inhalation exposure to low concentrations of benzene can actually be more harmful than brief exposure to higher concentrations.

    Since benzene is nearly odorless, once you smell a sweet odor similar to gasoline, you are likely exposed to high levels of benzene. In short, if you can smell it, you’re being exposed to dangerous levels.


    Dermal Exposure

    Benzene exposure through skin contact is also common. Benzene can be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream. So any cuts or scrapes can increase the risk of developing cancer.

    Exposure Through Ingestion

    Though benzene exposure by ingestion is less common, it can be significantly more damaging. Studies indicate that benzene may be more readily absorbed through the stomach than through the lungs or skin, making it far more dangerous. Typically this type of exposure occurs when handling paint thinners or strippers and failing to wash your hands.

    Hughes Law Offices – Benzene Attorneys

    Many people who have spent decades working with paint thinners and strippers were never warned of the dangers. As a result, they did not wear protective clothing/gloves or use respirators. Our personal injury attorneys are working to educate the public about the dangers and risks involved. We are here to help fight for our clients’ rights.

    These cases are complex and can be difficult, which means they require an experienced attorney to properly handle matters. If you have been exposed to benzene for prolonged periods of time, and have received a leukemia diagnosis, contact our office for a free case evaluation. You can call 1-800-BENZENE and speak to an attorney today.

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    Verdicts and Settlements

    Survey of Benzene

    Hughes Law Offices is providing case histories to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns and rulings.
    Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices.
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    Helper/rigger/leadman on barges diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia via benzene exposure. Plaintiff exposed to benzene via solvents used to clean tools. Employer provided the solvents. Older versions of Liquid Wrench contained high mixtures of benzene.



    Gasoline tanker truck driver diagnosed with blood cancer following years of benzene exposure at defendant’s premises. Benzene was component of the fuel that he was loading and hauling.



    Plaintiff had a 39-year career with Sabine Towing. Throughout his career, plaintiff held various positions, including seaman, quartermaster, boatswain, third mate, second mate, chief mate and master..



    Able-bodied seaman diagnosed with kidney cancer as a result of exposure to benzene and other hydrocarbons while loading and discharging crude oil and other products, cleaning tanks and measuring tank levels.



    In his 30s at the time, decedent was a contracted tanker truck driver who regularly transported toxic products. As a result, he was regularly exposed to chemicals containing benzene.



    Plaintiff’s decedent had worked as a pump man aboard various tankers in the early 1970s and early 1980s where he was exposed to benzene. In 1994, about 15 years since his last exposure to benzene, the decedent was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

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