Leukemia and the Workplace

Leukemia, or cancer of the bone marrow cells affecting white blood cell production, can be caused by workplace exposure to certain chemicals. Below is a list of the most common occupations at-risk of developing leukemia through benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals.

  • Factory and Refinery Workers (especially in petroleum, pesticides, and synthetics production)
  • Firefighters
  • Fuel Attendants/Airplane Refuelers
  • Microchip Manufacturers

Unfortunately, the list does not end there, nor do these and the many other industries exposing their workers to carcinogens make their workers aware of cancer dangers they face. Even fewer employers always take responsibility for leukemia treatments.

Factory and Refinery Workers

Benzene is one of the most widely used chemicals in America’s chemical industry. Benzene is used as a solvent (it breaks another chemical down so that its components can be more easily mixed or extracted) to produce resins, adhesives, and synthetics like plastics and nylon. Benzene can also be found in many forms of paint, fuel fumes, and cleaning agents.

Benzene is also a proven carcinogen.

For two decades, the 1987 OSHA standard set for the maximum allowable atmospheric work exposure to benzene has remained the same: 1 part per million over an 8 hour shift. Despite this, American workers have been exposed to unsafe levels of this toxic chemical.

Tire Manufacturing

Benzene exposure occurs throughout the rubber processing and tire manufacturing processes. The various workers who store, mix, load, and unload solvents (including tire builders and tubers, laboratory technicians, and maintenance personnel) are all exposed to this carcinogen.

Although benzene has been removed from most household cleaners and solvents, the industrial use of benzene solvents is still a source of exposure. Part of the solvents used to mix and form tire rubber, benzene poses serious cancer risks to tire plant workers. Workers at tire manufacturing plants are especially vulnerable to benzene fumes in high heat and high solvent use areas, such as at tire building machines.

Click here to read more about tire plant workers' exposure to benzene.


Firefighters are exposed to high levels of dense, toxic gasses every time they report to a fire. These toxic chemicals, many carcinogens, are inhaled upon arriving on the scene and are absorbed through the skin. Even when not out saving lives and property, firefighters at the station are in danger of inhaling benzene and other carcinogens present in the diesel exhaust of their trucks.

A 2006 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine study of 110,000 firefighters found that these everyday heroes have a 50% higher risk of certain types of cancers than non-firefighters.

Fuel Attendants/Airplane Refuelers

Benzene was added to instant coffee and used to perfume men’s shaving lotion before its carcinogenic properties were discovered. Of benzene’s original uses, one remains today: a gasoline additive. When leaded gasoline was removed from American pumps, benzene was again added in its place to raise the octane rating and reduce knocking. While the official legal level of benzene additive to gasoline set by the EPA remains 1% per volume, no study has sufficiently determined the safe levels for workers pumping this carcinogenic additive at gas stations or on airfields.

Microchip Manufacturers

Microchip manufacturing requires the controlled, dust-free environments of “clean rooms” and workers to wear “bunny suits” to prevent skin cells and hair from contacting the delicate silicon. Unfortunately, toxic chemicals like benzene do not contaminate chips. If they did, there’s a strong likelihood that fewer semiconductor workers would have leukemia and their children born with birth defects. IBM has settled over 50 cases (specifics undisclosed) since 2004 for birth defects and cancers caused by working conditions inside their clean rooms.

Immediate Help

Benzene-related illnesses (such as leukemia) have a strict statute of limitations (the specific time you have to begin litigation before legal action can no longer be taken). Waiting may cost you the right to file a claim.


Lawyers for Change

If you believe benzene is responsible for your leukemia, contact the Consumer Justice Group. Help end industry's long history of poisoning workers. Speak now with a benzene lawyer.

The Leukemia Health News is a service of the Consumer Justice Group.

1-800-557-DRUG, free consultation
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