Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Caused from Benzene Exposure

As a maritime worker, you are already aware of the dangers of your job. However, you may not have considered the fact that exposure to certain toxins could eventually result in a serious disease. If you are a barge worker, dock worker or offshore worker, you may have been exposed to a harmful substance known as benzene.

Benzene is defined as a colorless or light yellow liquid that evaporates into the air quickly. Benzene is found in most refined petroleum products, crude oil, gasoline, toluene, jet fuel, aviation gas, xylene and naphtha. Benzene on barges is especially dangerous not only due to its extremely flammable nature, but these toxic exposures can cause Multiple Myeloma, AML Leukemia, Aplastic Anemia (AA), Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndrome or myelodysplasia (MDS), blood cancers and certain bladder cancers.

Even though benzene is known as a carcinogen, it still ranks in the top 20 chemicals for production volume. Workers can be exposed to high levels of benzene when they work with petroleum products. Benzene exposure usually occurs by breathing the toxin through your lungs or by absorbing it through your skin when working with solvents. Industrial solvents, gasoline fumes, oil and coal emissions and paint can all lead to significant benzene exposure.

It has been estimated that millions of workers are exposed to benzene every year in the United States. Even low levels of exposure can cause cancer, such as Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This type of cancer can occur at any age and is generally identified through enlarged lymph nodes, fever and weight loss. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a “cancer that originates in your lymphatic system, the disease-fighting network spread throughout your body.” Tumors often develop from lymphocytes, which is a type of white blood cell. This cancer is more than five times as common as other types of lymphoma.

The number of cases of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has increased in the United States since the 1970s. In 2008, there have been 66,120 new cases of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and 19,160 deaths caused by this cancer. Some of the symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, according to the Mayo Clinic include:

  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe itchy skin

The treatment optionsfor Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma typically include chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplantation, biotherapy, radioimmunotheraphy and interferon therapy. Recovery from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is possible, but the costs of medical care are often high. If you have developed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while working offshore, you may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act or other General Maritime Law. You may be able to recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and mental anguish.