Worker blames benzene for leukemia

David Yates Oct. 22, 2007, 12:00pm

Keith Hyde

A Southeast Texas petrochemical worker is claiming his exposure to benzene has caused him to develop leukemia.

Seeking punitive damages as compensation for his disease, Kenneth Bagley is suing E.I. Du Pont De Nemours, Exxon Mobil, Chevron U.S.A. and Unocal.

According to Bagley's petition, filed Oct. 9 in the Jefferson County District Court, the defendants negligently exposed him to benzene and other toxic substances associated with the petroleum industry during his career as a contractor.

Benzene, a natural constituent of crude oil, is used as an additive in gasoline and is also an important industrial solvent and precursor in the production of drugs, plastics, synthetic rubber and dyes.

As a result of the alleged benzene exposure, Bagley developed myelodysplastic syndrome (leukemia), the suit said. "Defendants were negligent in failing to warn (him) of the adverse health affects of these toxic and carcinogenic chemicals."

The suit goes on to list six counts of negligence, including failing to warn him of the risk, failing to eliminate the risk, failing to perform adequate medical monitoring of persons upon its premises and failing to implement benzene safety policies.

In his suit, Bagley alleges the oil companies possessed knowledge of the dangerous condition (cancerous benzene) but continued to expose laborers to the chemicals.

"Defendants were fully aware of their chemical emissions at their plants and the presence of chemicals…knowing that such containments would be inhaled or absorbed," the suit said. "Defendants knew their chemicals have the potential for causing cancer and other chronic diseases."

In addition to punitive damages, Bagley is suing for physical pain and suffering in the past and future, mental anguish in the past and future, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, physical impairment in the past and future, and past and future medical expenses.

On its Web site, the National Cancer Institute listed the following risk factors associated with myelodysplastic syndrome: Being male or white; being older than 60 years; past treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy; being exposed to certain chemicals, including tobacco smoke, pesticides, and solvents such as benzene; and being exposed to heavy metals, such as mercury or lead.

Bagley demanding a trial by jury and is represented by Provost Umphrey attorney Keith Hyde.

Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, will preside over the case.

Case No. A180-552

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