According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “The seriousness of poisoning caused by benzene depends on the amount, route, and length of time of exposure, as well as the age and preexisting medical condition of the exposed person.”
That’s true of most potential toxins. The dose makes the poison. Its lethality may be increased by the method and duration of exposure and the victim’s relative susceptibility, but the most important question is: “How much?” Followed by: “Was it inhaled, swallowed, or injected?” “Is the victim in poor health, allergic, etc.?” And so on.
Water, for instance, is healthy and necessary in reasonable amounts. The Galveston Flood of 1900 was too much, too fast.
“People who breathe in high levels of benzene,” the CDC informs, “may develop the following signs and symptoms within minutes to several hours: drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, headaches, tremors, confusion, unconsciousness, [and] death (at very high levels).”
That’s high levels of benzene, not high levels of death.
In other words, if you’ve been poisoned by benzene, you’ll know it soon enough – though, of course, the source of your distress may be something else entirely. “Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to benzene,” the CDC stresses.
Unfortunately for Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, the jury in his lawsuit against BP for the Spring 2010 release of chemicals at its Texas City refinery was both well-informed and rational.
When a toxicologist testified for the defense that exposure levels were not toxic, the jurors logically concluded that Buzbee’s few clients in this first “test trial” had no legitimate claims for health injuries and thus were not entitled to collect damages.
Ergo, thousands of other Texas City residents and refinery workers pressing claims are likewise unentitled.
That’s a big dose of disappointment for Buzbee. We hope it’s not toxic for him.