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Painters & Benzene

Benzene is a naturally occurring chemical found in crude oil. Many petroleum-based products commonly used by painters over the years contained variable levels of benzene. These benzene exposures endured by painters put them at elevated risk for leukemia.

These products include:

  • Solvents
  • Thinners
  • Paints
  • Enamels
  • Reducers
  • Oils
  • Lacquers
  • Primers

The benzene levels in most of these products are relatively low today. Moreover, all experts acknowledge there is no safe level of benzene exposure. Long term use of benzene-containing solvents, paints, and thinners can lead to certain cancers including myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). 

painter leukemia


Any Warnings Came Too Late

Unfortunately, epidemiological studies indicate that painters are at an elevated risk for diseases like AML and MDS compared to non-exposed individuals. The manufacturers of many of these petroleum-based products, knew about the dangers associated with benzene for decades. These are huge companies like Exxon, Shell Chemical, DuPont and Chevron.  Despite that knowledge, many of the end-users of their products, including painters, never received proper warnings about benzene.

Today, many shops and companies appreciate the dangers of benzene and provide their workers with respirators, safety training, and well-ventilated work areas. But back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, before the EPA began to regulate benzene levels in paints, thinners and lacquers, painters working without breathing protection in unventilated shops often endured toxic benzene exposures.  

painter leukemia

Many painters describe washing their hands with solvents and thinners before eating their lunch or leaving for the day. Benzene can be absorbed through the skin, therefore painters cleaning their hands with benzene-containing products suffered dangerous exposures. Lacquer thinners were used for much more than thinning lacquer.

Benzene evaporates quite easily but does not have a chemical odor which might warn users. So the open can of paint you were working next to all day could have been venting benzene into your breathing space all day. The thinners you used to remove oil-based paint and to clean your brushes at the end of the day may also have exposed you to benzene. 

We May Be Able to Help

The companies that manufactured and sold these products were aware of the dangers of benzene before they began to reduce the concentration. Having experienced counsel to take on the petrochemical giants is vital. While you focus on your recovery, let us do the work needed to prove your case. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with AML or MDS after a career in painting, call 1-800-BENZENE to speak with a benzene lawyer today.

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