Benzene Exposure and Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Benzene, a colorless flammable liquid with a sweet odor, is among the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States. Because it evaporates quickly when exposed to air, it is used mainly as a starting material in making other chemicals, including plastics, lubricants, dyes, benzenedetergents, and pesticides. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke are important sources of exposure to benzene. Multiple studies have shown an increase risk in childhood leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML), in relation to air pollution sources, such as vehicle exhaust, emitting benzene. Moreover, exposure of the mother, and perhaps the father, to benzene could be just as important as childhood exposure in causing childhood AML.

What is Childhood AML?

Childhood AML is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, in which the bone marrow makes a large number of abnormal blood cells. AML, detected and diagnosed by tests that examine blood and bone marrow, is the most common type of leukemia diagnosed during infancy, and the second-most common form of leukemia in children, with about 20 percent of cases of acute childhood leukemia being AML.

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors that may contribute to a child being diagnosed with AML. These factors include having certain genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome and being exposed to chemicals such as benzene. In addition, benzene has been detected at high levels in indoor air. Although some of this exposure might be from benzene-containing products or building materials, such as paints and adhesives, cigarette smoke may also be a source. Also, levels of benzene are higher in homes with attached garages than in those with detached garages.
People spending more time indoors, such as children, are likely to have higher exposure to benzene.

Signs/Symptoms

AML is called “acute” because it tends leukemiato worsen quickly if left untreated. The symptoms of all types of leukemia are generally the same and include: fever (with or without infection), feeling tired, easy bleeding or bruising, night sweats, shortness of breath, an eczema-like rash, and pain in the bones, joints, or below the ribs. The child may also have painless lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach, groin, or around the eyes that can be blue, blue-green or purple.

Treatment

AML is one of the most challenging childhood cancers to treat. Unlike other cancers, AML does not occur in stages. Instead, it is found spread throughout the bloodstream at the time of diagnosis, and may have attacked an organ. As a result of its ability to affect the whole body at once, it must be treated aggressively as soon as possible. Children who have AML are treated with an “induction therapy” similar to that for adults with AML: cytarabine and drugs such as doxorubicin or daunomycin, or a third drug, such as mitoxantrone. Chemotherapy has also been used in different combinations and dosages over the past several decades, leading to improved childhood AML cure rates, but more research is needed to further improve cure rates and decrease the side effects and long-term effects of chemotherapy. Children who have been treated for AML may be at increased risk for heart damage, other cancers and neurologic or cognitive problems.

Litigation

The attorneys at Madeksho Law Firm, PLLC have been litigating cases of toxic exposure for over 40 years. They have extensive experience in this area and will provide highly skilled representation to you or your loved one to obtain the compensation you deserve.