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PAINT THINNERS & LEUKEMIA

Published on June 22nd, 2022 by Andrew Hughes

Many painters and other tradespeople are at increased risk of leukemia and other cancers as a result of their exposure to paint, varnish, and lacquer thinners and strippers.

How are Paint Thinners & Strippers Connected to Leukemia?

Chronic exposure to thinners and strippers are dangerous because many common paint thinners and strippers have contained benzene. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies benzene as a known carcinogen. Examples of other known carcinogens include asbestos, plutonium, and tobacco.

Benzene exposure can lead to numerous diseases including:

How Much Benzene is Present in Paint Thinners & Strippers? 

Many thinners and strippers contain benzene because they are, in whole or in part, petroleum distillates i.e. they are derived from petroleum or a petroleum byproduct. Benzene is a naturally occurring component of petroleum. In the past, many common thinners and strippers were heavily contaminated with benzene. Benzene was actually the main component of some products. Today the benzene content in these products has been greatly reduced. However, there is no safe level of benzene exposure and exposures to trace amounts of benzene may amount to dangerous levels over time.

How Can Dangerous Exposures Occur?

A dangerous exposure to benzene via a paint thinner or stripper can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the skin.

Inhalation is often the primary route of exposure. Petroleum distillates are generally quick to evaporate. As a result, benzene vapors can make their way into your lungs soon after the product is exposed to the air. The epidemiology that we rely upon to prove these cases establishes that long-term inhalation exposures to low concentrations of benzene are often more harmful than short term exposures at much higher concentrations.

If you worked with or around paint thinners and strippers and can recall smelling a sweet, aromatic, gasoline-like aroma, you were likely being exposed to benzene. Unfortunately, if you can smell benzene (the “odor threshold”), you are inhaling unsafe levels. Dizziness or drowsiness are also common signs of an acute exposure to benzene.

Dermal benzene exposures are also common. Since benzene can be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream, individuals who regularly get these products on their skin are at increased risk for leukemia. Any cuts or scrapes make it even easier for the benzene to find its way into the bloodstream.

While less common than inhalation and dermal exposures, ingestion of these products can be more damaging. Scientific study has indicated that benzene may be more readily absorbed through the stomach than it is through the lungs or skin. Working with thinners and strippers and then failing to wash your hands before eating is one such way that harmful ingestion of benzene may occur.

Who is at the Greatest Risk of a Dangerous Exposure? 

Anyone who is chronically exposed to thinners and strippers is at risk of a dangerous exposure to benzene. Painters frequently work with these products and, as such, are often the worst affected. However, many other tradespeople use these products as well.

Many of the professionals who have used thinner and stripper products were never told that they were dangerous. As a result, personal protective equipment, such as gloves and respirators, were underutilized.

Thinners and Stripper Exposures – Verdicts and Settlements

$6,370,000 settlement (California, 2019)

The Plaintiff worked as an automobile body mechanic and painter from 1967 to 2008. During his career he worked with numerous automotive paints, thinners, and strippers that contained benzene. He developed myelodysplastic syndrome at the age of 68. The parties agreed to the $6.37 million settlement shortly before the Plaintiff’s death.

$7,067,34 verdict (Texas, 2015)

The Plaintiff was employed as a painter from 1973 to 1981. During that time, he was exposed to benzene-containing paints and solvents that were manufactured by DuPont. He subsequently developed myelodysplastic syndrome which progressed into acute myeloid leukemia. All of the other Defendants settled for confidential amounts or were dismissed prior to trial. The Jury found the DuPont 80% liable and the Plaintiff 20% liable. With the addition of $1,485,601 in medical expenses and the adjustment for comparative liability, the net award amounted to $6,895,068.20.

$2,282,000 settlement (California, 2005)

The 40-year-old Decedent spent most of his life working as a missionary and a pastor of a small church. However, to make ends meet, Decedent spent one year working as an aircraft painter at McDonnell Douglas. Eleven years after he began working at McDonnell Douglas, he was diagnosed with acute myelomonocytic leukemia with eosinophilia. The survivors claimed Decedent’s diagnosis was caused by exposure to benzene contaminated paints and solvents he used at McDonnell Douglas.

Hughes Law Offices is providing these case histories to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns, settlements, verdicts, and rulings. Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices.

Experienced Benzene Attorneys

These are complicated cases that require attorneys with experience dealing in these matters. If you or a loved one has endured long-term fuel exposures and have received a cancer diagnosis, call Benzene Lawyers today at 1-800-BENZENE to find out if you have a claim against the manufacturers of these benzene products.

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