Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) and Benzene Exposure

Toxic exposureMyelodysplastic syndrome is actually a broad range of linked conditions regarding the formation of blood cells, and may be caused by benzene exposure. MDS presents as a failure of the bone marrow to produce one or more kind of blood cells, and this results in complications, such as anemia, the need for continued transfusion, infection, and bleeding.  If you believe your MDS was caused by benzene exposure, you may be able to file a toxic exposure lawsuit.

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What is MDS?

Healthy bone marrow makes blood stem cells, or blasts, that mature into functioning blood cells over time. These stem cells develop into either a lymphoid cell, which matures into a white blood cell, or a myeloid cell, which can become either an oxygen-carrying red blood cell, or a disease-fighting white blood cell, or a platelet that aids in the formation of blood clots that stop bleeding. In patients with myelodysplastic syndrome, stem cells don’t mature into functioning cells or platelets. Instead, they either die while still in the bone marrow or very quickly after they enter the blood stream.

In a paper titled Clinical and Economic Consequences of Myelodysplastic Syndromes in the United States: An Analysis of the Medicare Database presented at the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting and Exposition (original presentation date December 8, 2008- updated October 26, 2010), researchers discussed significant demographic facts about patients who are diagnosed with the disease. After searching the Medicare Standard Analytic File 5% claims database to find patients with a new primary myelodysplastic syndrome diagnosis code in the first quarter of 2003, the researchers observed that these patients were typically 70 years old or older and primarily white males.


Benzene Exposure

In addition to these two risk factors, another significant risk factor is exposure to chemical solvents like benzene. In a 2010 position paper, the World Health Organization (WHO) made the following statement about the prevalence of industrial benzene exposure:

“As benzene occurs naturally in crude petroleum at levels up to 4 g/l (gram per liter), human activities using petroleum lead to exposure. These activities include processing of petroleum products, coking of coal, production of toluene, xylene and other aromatic compounds, and use in industrial and consumer products, as a chemical intermediate and as a component of petrol (gasoline) and heating oils. The presence of benzene in petrol and as a widely used industrial solvent can result in significant occupational exposure and widespread emissions to the environment. Automobile exhaust accounts for the largest source of benzene in the general environment. Off-gassing from building materials and structural fires lead to increased atmospheric benzene levels. Industrial discharge, landfill leachate (liquid that drains from a landfill) and disposal of benzene-containing waste are also sources of exposure.”

In addition, the agency noted that exposure could also originate from:

  • Indoor air - Some of this exposure comes from building materials like paints or adhesives, but most indoor air-related exposure is from cigarette smoke. Levels of benzene are higher in homes with attached garages than in those with detached garages. Benzene may also be released to indoor air from oil heating furnaces without flues and from the use of benzene-containing consumer products.
  • Inside vehicles – “Benzene has been measured in air inside vehicles at levels higher than those in residential air, but substantially lower than those at petrol (gasoline) filling stations.”


Benzene Exposure and MDS

The link between benzene exposure and myelodysplastic syndrome has been examined in a number of studies. Some of the most recent include:

  • Occupational exposures and haematological malignancies: overview on human recent data, published October 2005 in Cancer Causes and Control, researchers found that benzene was conclusively demonstrated to be carcinogenic to the hematopoietic system, which forms blood cells.
  • Integrating WHO 2001-2008 criteria for the diagnosis of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS): a case-case analysis of benzene exposure, published March 2010 in Chemico-Biological Interactions,
    researchers concluded that certain subtypes of myelodysplastic syndrome were influenced by exposure to benzene and that altered immune regulation plays a major role in the development of the disease following chronic exposure to benzene.
  • Case-control study of risk factors of myelodysplastic syndromes according to World Health Organization classification in a Chinese population, published February 2011 in the American Journal of Hematology, researchers observed that benzene was a risk factor for all of the combined subtypes of myelodysplastic syndrome.


Contact a Benzene Poisoning Lawyer

People who have been diagnoses with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) after benzene exposure are often eligible to file lawsuits against the parties responsible for their exposure to benzene.  If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with MDS after benzene exposure, a benzene poisoning lawyer from our firm may be able to help you recover the compensation you are entitled to.  Contact our personal injury lawyers today for a consultation with a serious injury attorney at no cost to you.


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