Crude Oil Refineries are Exposing Nearby Residents to Benzene

Crude Oil Refineries are Exposing Nearby Residents to Benzene

The Environmental Protection Agency recently found that 10 refineries across the United States are releasing amounts of benzene that exceeds federal action levels into surrounding areas. Of 114 refineries across the United States, 10 were big violators of pollution regulations. The worst was in eastern Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, which is emitting five times the legal amount of benzene. Another big violator includes a New Mexico site emitting benzene where 3,300 people live in the surrounding area. Texas has six of the refineries while the last two are in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The refineries mentioned above turn crude oil into different everyday petroleum products including gasoline, jet fuel, and other chemicals used to create plastics. Refineries go about breaking crude oil down into different components called fractions. Using fractional distillation, crude oil is boiled, and the different products are collected at the different boiling points. They can also use chemical processing to convert the different products into others (ex. Diesel turned into gasoline). The different fractions are then treated and combined to make different products. Refineries are also responsible for cleaning up any waste involved to reduce air and water pollution.

These refineries releasing benzene is very problematic. It affects blood cells and can lead to acute myeloid leukemia. Short term effects of benzene include drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, headache, tremors, confusion, unconsciousness, and even death at very high levels. People living near refineries could be experiencing these symptoms daily if the benzene levels are high enough. Long term effects include serious changes to bone marrow, leading to a decrease in red and white blood cells, causing anemia. It can also affect the immune system, leading to a greater chance that people become infected by easily fended off infectious agents.

A lot of the time people are exposed to benzene without knowing. Many workers were exposed on a daily basis and they developed leukemia as a result. People in surrounding areas of refineries are also exposed for an extended period of time, making them more likely to develop debilitating diseases like leukemia. If you have acute myeloid leukemia and previously worked with benzene or were even exposed because of surrounding industries, you could be entitled to compensation. Call us at 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form to speak to one of our staff. We will help in any way we can.

Craig Freudenrich, “How Oil Refining Works” How Stuff Works [Link]
“Facts About Benzene” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Link]
“Report: 10 US refineries release high levels of benzene” Kallanish Energy (February 10, 2020). [Link]

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