Benzene is a highly volatile substance and a known carcinogenic that has been associated with a wide variety of negative health effects and diseases. The substance is present in natural environments, in industrial workplaces, and even out and about on the street. Common benzene sources include tobacco smoke, petroleum fuel, and dirt, air, and water in trace amounts.
Because of benzene’s volatile nature, the DHHS, EPA, OSHA, and other state departments have instituted numerous regulations controlling the presence of benzene in various contexts. For example, there are precise limits to how much benzene workers can be safely exposed to (1ppm). If an employer violates these standards, they are very likely to be found liable for negligence.
If you have been overexposed to benzene, you should prioritize your medical care to prevent any further damage before considering any of the legal ramifications.
Benzene in the Air and on Clothing
If benzene is released into the air, get fresh air by either moving away from the exposed area if you are already outside, or getting out of the building if benzene is released indoors. If benzene gets on your clothes, remove any clothing that has been contaminated. Don’t pull contaminated clothing over your head, but cut off clothing instead.
If you’re helping others remove their clothing, avoid touching the contaminated areas and remove clothing as quickly as possible. Dispose contaminated clothing in a plastic bag without touching the contaminated areas. Wear rubber gloves if you can’t touch the clothing without exposing yourself to the contaminated areas or you don’t know where the contaminated areas are. Use tongs, tool handles, sticks, or similar objects, if necessary to dispose of contaminated clothing.
Anything that touches the contaminated clothing should also be placed in the plastic bag. Seal the bag, and then seal the same bag inside another plastic bag. When local or state health department or emergency personnel arrive, they should be told what you did with the clothing.
Benzene on Skin or in Eyes
If benzene makes contact with your skin, wash your skin with large amounts of soap and water. If benzene gets in your eyes, then rinse your eyes with plain water for 10-15 minutes. Remove contact lenses, if any, after washing hands and put them with your contaminated clothing. Don’t put your contact lenses back on. Contaminated eyeglasses can be washed with soap and water and then be re-worn.
If someone has swallowed benzene, seek immediate medical attention. Do not induce vomiting or attempt CPR (which also causes vomiting), since vomit could be sucked into his or her lungs, thereby causing damage to the lungs.
After seeking appropriate medical help, you should consider the possibility of a lawsuit. Your lawsuit will likely be based on a theory of workplace negligence, as any overexposure of benzene is negligent given its known hazardous qualities. Importantly, you’ll want to be sure that the statute of limitations period has not run out on your legal claim.
If it has been several years since exposure, your statute of limitations may have run out. State laws differ on the length and start date of the limitations period. As this can be a quite complicated assessment, please consider speaking with a qualified personal injury attorney to help determine the strength of your legal claim.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.