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Tanker Truck Drivers & Leukemia

Published on July 29th, 2022 by Andrew Hughes

Why Are Tanker Truck Drivers at Elevated Risk for Leukemia?

Many tanker truck drivers are at elevated risk for leukemia because they were exposed to dangerous levels of benzene. Any tanker truck driver who hauled gasoline or other petrochemicals likely endured some level of exposure.

Benzene is a carcinogenic aromatic hydrocarbon. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies benzene as a group one carcinogen.1 Examples of other group one carcinogens include asbestos, plutonium, and tobacco.

What Types of Cancer are Linked to Benzene Exposure?

Benzene exposure can lead to numerous diseases including:

How are Tanker Truck Drivers Exposed to Benzene?

Most of the benzene exposures endured by tanker truck drivers occur during the loading and unloading of petrochemicals. The term “petrochemical” refers to chemicals that are derived from petroleum. Benzene is a natural constituent of petroleum. Consequently, just about every petrochemical contains some level of benzene.

When a petrochemical is properly stored, the risk of exposure to benzene is low. However, petrochemicals are generally quick to evaporate. When a petrochemical is being loaded or unloaded, large amounts of benzene vapors can be released into the air.

Tanker truck drivers are often responsible for loading and unloading their tanker trailers on each delivery. Some tanker trailers can hold more than 10,000 gallons of petrochemicals, and it’s common for tanker truck drivers to make several deliveries a day. Without proper safety precautions, tanker truck drivers quickly amass significant exposures to benzene.

Sadly, the petroleum industry did not always take adequate precautions to protect its tanker truck drivers. For decades, tanker trailers, fuel terminals, and service stations all lacked adequate vapor recovery systems. Many tanker truck drivers were not provided with protective equipment or warned of the danger.

Top-loading, which required drivers to climb on top of the trailer and stand over the tank inlet as the tank was being filled, was especially dangerous. Top-loading persisted as common practice long after it was known to expose drivers to dangerous levels of benzene.

Which Petrochemicals are the Most Dangerous?

Gasoline, in particular, is notorious for exposing tanker truck drivers to benzene. Even today, unleaded gasoline contains a significant amount of benzene, and tanker truck drivers haul a lot of it. In 2021, U.S. vehicles consumed roughly 135 billion gallons of motor gasoline, and just about every drop of it was delivered to the fuel pumps by tanker truck drivers.2

However, gasoline is just one of the many benzene-laden petrochemicals frequently transported via tanker trucks. Many tanker truck drivers have hauled petrochemicals that contained much more benzene than gasoline. For example, petrochemical feedstocks are often heavily contaminated with benzene.

In fact, pure benzene is itself a petrochemical feedstock that is used in a wide variety of chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Some tanker drivers can even recount having to top-load pure benzene into tanker trailers without vapor recovery systems or personal protective equipment.

Tanker Truck Drivers & Benzene – Verdicts & Settlements

$3,520,000 verdict (Iowa, 2016)

The Decedent spent 5 years working as a tanker truck driver for the Defendant in 90s. His job duties included loading, transporting, and unloading debutanized aromatic concentrate (DAC).  DAC (aka pyrolysis gas or pygas) is a feedstock used for petrochemical manufacturing that is 40-45% benzene. The Defendant’s trailers had to be top loaded.  The loading process took 20 to 30 minutes, and the Decedent would make about 4-6 deliveries a day. The Decedent subsequently was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, which quickly developed into acute myeloid leukemia. The decedent died within a year of his initial diagnosis.

$7,500,000 verdict (Nevada, 2011)

The Plaintiff, a tanker truck driver, delivered gasoline from the defendant’s fuel terminal in Las Vegas to surrounding gas stations over a 6-year period. He would make between 1-7 deliveries every day. The Plaintiff developed myelodysplastic syndrome and passed away shortly after his diagnosis at the age of 58. At trial, the Plaintiff’s estate presented evidence that showed his exposure to benzene had caused chromosomal damage to his DNA. Prior to trial, the estate agreed to confidential settlements with the other Defendants.

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 endured long-term fuel exposures and received a leukemia diagnosis, call Benzene Lawyers today at 1-800-BENZENE. Find out if you have a claim against property owners and the manufacturers of these benzene products.

1https://www.iarc.fr/

 

2Https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=23&t=10#:~:text=In%202021%2C%20about%20134.83%20billion,8.80%20million%20barrels%20per%20day

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