For over sixty years, the companies within the chemical and oil industries–and the lawyers that represent them–have been arguing the safety levels of benzene and other toxic substances in and out of the courtroom. Their arguments, supported by self-funded scientific research, downplay hazards that can ultimately lead to fatal illnesses like cancer and other life-altering conditions. Internal documents recently released to the public are just beginning to shed light on the deception and carelessness of these companies.
With little regard for worker or public safety, the American Petroleum Institute and other companies have funded reports that devalue the health of workers. “It shows a pattern of behavior…It shows how industry didn’t want to share bad news with their employees. None of this information was made available to the average worker…” said plaintiff lawyer Herschel Hobson.
More and more documents that demonstrate the chemical industry’s knowledge of the carcinogenic properties of benzene, as well as the industry’s efforts to conceal them, are quickly becoming public property. Over 20,000 pages of benzene documents are now available online in a searchable online archive, which includes emails, letters, and meeting minutes of different oil and chemical companies within the industries.
This is a story all too familiar to the victims of the asbestos and tobacco industries’ toxic products. Those that have been exposed to benzene and later developed leukemia or other diseases have faced huge difficulties when trying to prove that the substance is responsible for their conditions. These now-public documents might change that in the future of benzene litigation.
Written by James P. Nevin