Former Gas Station Mechanic Diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia Awarded $725M in Benzene Exposure Lawsuit Against Exxon

Jury found ExxonMobile negligent for failing to warn workers of the cancer risks from benzene exposure at their gas stations.

A Pennsylvania state court jury has determined that ExxonMobile should pay $725.5 million to a former gas station who developed acute myeloid leukemia, indicating that the company failed to disclose the risk of cancer that may result from long-term exposure to benzene at gas stations.

The lawsuit was filed by Paul Gill in 2020, indicating he was diagnosed with the cancer in 2019, after working at an Exxon gas station from 1975 to 1980. He blames the blood cancer on exposure to benzene, arguing that the company knew or should have known about risks associated withe the chemical, yet withheld information and warnings.

Gill indicates that he cleaned car parts using petroleum products with his bare hands, while working at the gas station. This resulted in high levels of benzene exposure, through skin contact and inhalation.

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Following trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Gill on Thursday, determining that Exxon was negligent in its failure to warn about the benzene exposure risks, and awarding $725.5 million in compensatory damages.

Exxon has indicated it will ask the Court to reverse the jury’s decision and will appeal if necessary.

Benzene Exposure Risks

Benzene is an industrial chemical that has been linked to the development of several fatal forms of cancer and life-threatening health conditions, such as acute myeloid 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, Myeloid Metaplasia, Aplastic Anemia and Thrombocytopenic Purpura.

Long-term side effects of benzene exposure have also been proven to cause anemia, which is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin.

Research published in 2021 found benzene exposure is associated with an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma and hairy cell leukemia cancers.

High benzene levels have been found in many aerosol spray products sold in recent years, leading to a number of sunscreen, deodorant, and antiperspirant recalls.

Benzene Recall Lawsuits

Benzene concerns have been in the public eye in recent years due to the chemical being found in numerous consumer products, particularly aerosol sprays such as sunscreen and deodorant products.

High benzene levels were found in certain Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI and TRESemmé dry shampoo products, resulting in a Unilever dry shampoo recall products in 2021. The contamination stemmed from the propellant used by the manufacturer.

In 2022, an Old Spice and Secret deodorant recall was issued over high levels of benzene found in those aerosol spray products. A similar Suave antiperspirant spray recall was issued the same year.

Several Banana Boat sunscreen spray recalls have also been issued over benzene contamination. The most recent Banana Boat recall was issued in 2023 after additional aerosol spray products were determined to contain high benzene levels.

In February a Ting Athlete’s Foot spray recall was issued after benzene contamination was found. A similar Ting spray recall for the antifungal aerosol spray products was announced in late November 2023.

Johnson & Johnson faced at least eight class action lawsuits over benzene exposure linked to its spray sunscreens. The court issued final approval for a Neutrogena and Aveeno spray sunscreen class action settlement in February 2023. Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $1.75 million in vouchers to consumers who purchased benzene-tainted products, which were not included in the 2021 recall.

In October 2023, a federal judge granted approval to a $3.1 million Batiste dry shampoo settlement agreement, which included a $2.5 million cash fund and $600,000 in vouchers for consumers who purchased the benzene-contaminated shampoo products. The settlement resolved a similar class action lawsuit filed against the manufacturer, Church & Dwight, Co. over benzene contamination in its dry shampoo spray products. The lawsuit stemmed from a Unilever dry shampoo recall issued in October 2022, after elevated benzene levels were detected from the spray can propellant used by the manufacturer.

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