by Erich P. Rapp

During a presentation at the Defense Research Institute’s Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Seminar in New Orleans on Friday March 9, 2007, Dr. Pamela Williams of ChemRisk, Inc. indicated that she was preparing to publish a study on the potential for exposure to benzene from products containing trace (less than 0.1%) levels of benzene. Her study will likely conclude that measured airborne concentrations of benzene during the handling or use of petroleum-derived products in the United States have typically not exceeded workplace standards since at least the early 1980’s. The Williams’ study will also likely conclude that indoor air modeling shows that workplace exposures are likely to be minimal during the application of products containing trace levels of benzene. Finally, the Williams study will likely conclude that petroleum-derived products containing trace levels of benzene are not expected to produce 8-hour TWA airborne concentrations that exceed current regulatory standards under typical product use scenarios.

Dr. Williams’ study will likely be a good response for defense attorneys and their clients to the three studies that have been frequently cited by plaintiffs and their experts in support of trace benzene exposure claims. These studies have been used to support the idea that exposure to products containing trace levels of benzene can cause physical harm to those using the products. These studies include: 1) Marion J. Fedoruk’s article, Benzene Exposure Assessment for Use of a Mineral Spirits-Based Degreaser published in 2003 in the journal, Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene; 2) Melvyn Kopstein’s article, Potential Uses of Petrochemical Products Can Result in Significant Benzene Exposures: MSDSs must List Benzene as an Ingredient published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene; and 3) Mark Nicas’ article, Estimating Benzene Exposure at a Solvent Parts Washer published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

Defense counsel and their clients should be looking for details on the publication of Dr. Williams study in the near future. Dr. Williams’ materials indicate that she can be reached at