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Benzene Lawsuits, Mechanics, and Safety-Kleen

Published on December 21st, 2020 by Andrew Hughes

Why do individuals diagnosed with leukemia file benzene lawsuits against Safety-Kleen? In 1954, the founder of Safety-Kleen invented a parts washer and began to sell it to mechanics.  As a result of their work with Safety-Kleen, those mechanics were unknowingly exposed to benzene.  Benzene is a known cause of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), among other forms of blood and bone marrow cancers.

Safety-Kleen advertised that it offered customers a convenient, safe, economical way to clean greasy and dirty parts. To clean parts, Safety-Kleen developed its “105 Solvent” for use in its parts cleaning machines.   Safety-Kleen 105 Solvent is a mineral spirits-based petroleum hydrocarbon solvent. What does all this mean and why does it matter? Well, many petroleum-based products like Safety-Kleen contained dangerous concentrations of benzene. 

How are Individuals Exposed?

When parts are being cleaned, benzene was released from the Safety-Kleen 105 Solvent into the breathing space of those around the tanks. Each time a part is dipped and rinsed, the liquid gets agitated. If you recall the somewhat sweet aroma during this process, you were breathing in vapors that contained benzene. 

Most of the testing done on parts washers involves airborne exposures of benzene that mechanics experienced. However, benzene is also absorbed through the skin. Most mechanics who used Safety-Kleen got it on their hands, arms or even face.  Some mechanics even washed their dirty hands with the solvent. These dermal exposures are even more significant than the inhalation exposures. Additionally, any cuts or scrapes on your hand permitted the benzene to get right into your bloodstream, perhaps the worst type of exposure. 

Benzene is Still a Hazard

In public court filings Safety-Kleen blames the users of 105 Solvent for not taking precautions against benzene exposures. But why would people take precautions when Safety-Kleen was not warning the end-users that their products contained benzene? Safety-Kleen’s own records show that they knew their products contained benzene for decades before they took steps to adequately warn mechanics and other tradespeople. This makes Safety-Kleen a viable defendant in benzene lawsuits.

Countless Opportunities to Inform

By 1972, more than 100,000 Safety-Kleen parts washers had been sold in the US. A large part of their business involves removing and replenishing the solvents in the parts washers. Safety-Kleen salespeople and service techs regularly dealt with shop managers and mechanics.  And over the decades, despite countless opportunities to do so, Safety-Kleen failed to tell their customers to wear masks, gloves, and improve the ventilation around the parts washers.

This is why Safety-Kleen is successfully sued by mechanics who have developed acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), among other cancers. 

Benzene Lawsuits – All Consultations are Free

Benzene lawsuits are complex undertakings. No benzene lawsuit is certain to succeed and the defendants will aggressively defend every claim. That is why you need attorneys with experience in this area of litigation on your side. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with a blood or bone cancer, call 1-800-BENZENE and speak with an attorney today.

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