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Workplace Gasoline Exposures and Leukemia

Published on October 22nd, 2020 by Andrew Hughes

Fuel tanker drivers and gas station attendants are at an increased risk of developing acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) or myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) because benzene made up as much as 5% of the total volume of gasoline. While many people appreciate the obvious dangers of working with gasoline, the benzene found in gasoline likely causes more harm to Americans than gasoline-fed fires and explosions. Benzene is a known cause of blood and bone marrow cancers, including AML, MDS, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and Multiple Myeloma.  It was not until 2012 that the Environmental Protection Agency required that gasoline contain no more than 1.3% benzene with an average of less than 1%. 

Benzene, a sweet-smelling organic compound is easily inhaled because it vaporizes into the environment at room temperature. However, it is also easily absorbed into the skin, and small cuts or scrapes on one’s hands make absorption even easier.  Ingestion may be the most dangerous process in which benzene enters the body. Thankfully, siphoning gasoline is much less common today than in years past. Moreover, it is no longer the practice of professional and shadetree mechanics to degrease automotive parts in a bucket of gasoline and then dip their hands into the same bucket at the end of the day to get that oil and grease off.

The benzene content isn’t the only reason that gasoline is classified as a carcinogen. In 2003, a sample of Texas gasoline was found to contain 35% toluene, another aromatic toxic chemical, as well as naphthalene, trimethylbenzene and about a dozen other chemicals known to be dangerous to people. With so many dangerous chemicals that easily enter the breathing spaces of those near gasoline, vapor capture devices were added to gas station pumps in the early 1990s. But because the petroleum industry has been denying the dangers of benzene for decades, these devices were required to help with the ozone hole, not to protect workers and the general public. The American Petroleum Institute admitted that there was no safe level of benzene exposure in 1948.  Still, in lawsuit after lawsuit, members of the group like BP and Shell Oil continue to vigorously argue that the benzene in their products did not cause the plaintiff’s cancer. 

People who spent years working around gasoline, such as tanker truck drivers, refinery workers, and gas station attendants, have an elevated risk of developing blood or bone cancers like AML, MDS, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), or multiple myeloma (MM). This elevated risk is directly due to their long-term exposures to benzene via the gasoline. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with one of these cancers, call 1-800-BENZENE today and speak directly with an experienced lawyer. All consultations are free.

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