Benzene Leukemia Lawsuit Filed by Man Who Grew Up Near Oil Refinery

An Illinois man is suing Shell and several other large oil and energy companies, alleging that he developed leukemia from benzene exposure caused by repeated toxic releases from a refinery close to where he grew up. 

The benzene lawsuit was filed by Andrew Kayser on September 9 in Madison County Circuit Court. The complaint names BP Products North America, ConocoPhillips Company, Shell Oil Company, WRB Refining and URS Corporation as defendants.

Kayser indicates that he grew up and went to school in Roxana, Illinois near the Wood River Refinery, which has been cited and sued for numerous benzene spills and pollution violations.

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In March 2003, Kayser was diagnosed with acute lymphocyticleukemia, a form of leukemia that has been associated with exposure to benzene. According to the complaint, he has suffered premature aging of his skeletal structure, which has required him to have bilateral knee replacement and has caused damage to his teeth. He has also had his spleen removed due to complications caused by the leukemia from benzene exposure.

Earlier this year, residents of Roxana, Illinois filed a groundwater contamination class action lawsuit over benzene spills from the same refinery, which allegedly lowered property values in the town of about 1,500 people. Plaintiffs alleged that Shell released at least 8,400 gallons of benzene from an underground pipeline that went from the Wood River Refinery in Roxana to a barge loading facility on the Mississippi River. The spill created a plume under the village that contaminated groundwater supplies, the lawsuit claims. Similar leaks occurred from a BP facility in Wood River as well, according to the lawsuit.

The facilities have been cited a number of times by the EPA for violating environmental protection laws. In May 2008, Shell was cited for excessive releases of benzene and other chemicals into Roxana’s groundwater. Earlier this summer, during a heat wave that hit the Midwest and East Coast, Illinois environmental officials sent a letter urging Roxana residents not to sleep in their basements due to the risk of benzene exposure after testing indicated there could be a danger to residents’ health.

Benzene is an industrial chemical that has been associated with the development of several fatal forms of cancer, leukemia and other conditions, such as Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), Hairy Cell Leukemia (HCL), Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDL), Myelofibrosis and Myeloid Metaplasia, Aplastic Anemia and Thrombocytopenic Purpura.


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