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PENETRATING OILS

Published on June 7th, 2022 by Andrew Hughes

Mechanics, plumbers, pipefitters, and other tradespeople are at increased risk of leukemia and other cancers as a result of being exposed to benzene in penetrating oils.

What are Penetrating Oils?

Penetrating oils are generally used to free rusted nuts, bolts, locks, joints, etc as well as to clean parts. Few products are as common across all trades as penetrating oils. Anyone required to work with rusted or corroded parts, is likely using some form of a penetrating oil.

Examples of popular brand name penetrating oils include WD-40, Liquid Wrench, Kroil, Nuts Off, PB Blaster, CRC Knock’er Loose, Lock-ease, and 3-in-One. Many household consumers will be familiar with these products. However, in occupational settings, penetrating oils are used at a much greater scale, and are often purchased in bulk (e.g. 55-gallon drums).

Why are Penetrating Oils Dangerous?

Chronic exposure to penetrating oils can be dangerous because many of these products contain or once contained benzene. Benzene is a naturally occurring component of petroleum (AKA crude oil). Benzene can be found in penetrating oils because many penetrating oils are, at least in part, petroleum distillates.

Benzene exposures can lead to numerous diseases, including:

How Much Benzene is Present in Penetrating Oils?

While most petroleum-based penetrating oils will contain trace levels of benzene, some products contain more benzene than others.

Numerous factors affect the amount of benzene in any given product such as the proportion of petroleum distillate used in the product, what petroleum-distillate is used, and the refining process through which it was generated. However, relaxed corporate disclosure laws and opaque business practices have often made it difficult for consumers to determine how much benzene is present in a product.

Benzene was eventually considered a contaminant and was removed from petroleum distillate products where possible. However, removing benzene from these products increases the cost to produce them. Unfortunately, some producers prioritized profit over safety.

Today, most products generally contain comparatively low levels of benzene. However, historically some common products contained very dangerous levels of benzene.

How Can Dangerous Exposures Occur?

A dangerous exposure to benzene in a penetrating oil can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the skin.

Inhalation is often the primary route of exposure in industrial settings. Penetrating oils are quick to evaporate. As a result, benzene vapors can make their way into your lungs soon after the product is exposed to air. The workers in industrial settings, who in some cases have spent entire work days around uncovered barrels of these products, frequently endure some of the worst exposures. Poor ventilation in these workplace only worsened the exposures.

Dermal exposures can be significant as well. Many former tradesmen can attest to near daily use of penetrating oils. Any cuts or scrapes on the skin gives the benzene in these products an open door into the bloodstream.

Penetrating Oil Exposures – Benzene Verdicts & Settlements

$1,100,000 settlement (Pennsylvania, 2021)

The Decedent worked at a gas station in the late 60s and as a union pipefitter from 1972 to 1992. His work exposed him to penetrating oils such as Liquid Wrench as well as other hazardous products on a near daily basis. He subsequently developed acute myeloid leukemia. After the Decedent passed away, his estate brought suit alleging that his exposure to the Defendant’s products was the cause of his illness. The parties agreed to settle the case for approximately $1.1 million.

$3,500,000 settlement (Florida, 2020)

The Plaintiff, a lifelong mechanic, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in his late 40’s. He alleged that he was exposed to benzene while using products such as Liquid Wrench, Marvel Mystery Oil, Safety-Kleen, and mineral spirits. His earliest exposures to benzene-containing products occurred when he was only about ten years old. The Defendants argued that the Plaintiff’s illness was the result of his decades-long smoking history. The parties reached a $3.5 million settlement.

Confidential settlement (Missouri, 2014)

The Decedent worked as a floor boy, mechanic, foreman, and plant manager at a glass manufacturing plant in California. He was exposed to a variety of lubricants, oils, solvents, and other chemicals including Lock-Ease, 3-in-One Oil, and WD-40. Following his exposures he developed acute myeloid leukemia. After his death, his estate brought suit against the manufacturers of the many toxic substances to which he was exposed as well as his former employer. The parties agreed to a confidential settlement out of court.

Confidential settlement (Louisiana, 2009)

The Decedent spent 20 years working as pipefitter, mechanic, and plumber. During this time he worked with and around various benzene-containing products including Liquid Wrench and WD-40. He subsequently contracted multiple myeloma and passed away. Following his death, his estate brought suit naming a number of Defendant’s including Radiator Specialty Company, WD-40, Shell, BP, and Marathon. The parties eventually agreed to a confidential settlement.

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 used penetrating oils and have received a leukemia 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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