It is well accepted that at a sufficient duration and level of exposure, benzene exposure can make you sick. Serious illnesses, including cancers, are associated with benzene exposure.

For years, people who were exposed to benzene in factories and other industrial areas became sick and could trace their illnesses to the exposure. Historically, benzene has been viewed as something you could become exposed to outside of the home -- often at work.

Household exposure has generally not been considered to be a common source of benzene contact. However, the truth is that under certain circumstances benzene can make you ill at home. Here is how this can happen.

Gasoline contains benzene. Too often, underground tanks from gasoline stations leak. When this happens, people who live near gasoline stations may become exposed to benzene.

There are two ways this "in home" exposure to the gasoline leak often happens. First, it can happen through ground water contamination. If a station's tanks leak into the ground water, a neighbor who relies on well water may drink tainted water and may not even be aware he is consuming gasoline with benzene.

That person may not realize the drinking water is tainted because it takes less gasoline with benzene in it to potentially make you sick than it does to affect taste or odor of the water. So it can smell and taste fine, but still contain benzene.

Second, the gasoline forms a vapor and the vapor may seep into a neighbor's house. We are seeing more and more vapor intrusion cases.

Scientists and lawyers did not consider vapor intrusion as a health threat until recently. Now scientists recognize this threat and many states are attempting to regulate this exposure potential.

As with any harmful material, the likelihood of becoming ill is related to the intensity of exposure and the duration of exposure. Persons trained in measuring exposure need to evaluate this information for you.

Adults are certainly at risk. But children, the elderly and pregnant women may even be at greater risk. Also, of course, are persons with compromised immune systems.

If you feel that you or a family member has been exposed to benzene, the first thing that you should do is take measures to stop the exposure. Professional guidance is necessary to determine what measures your family needs to undertake to protect your well being.

The health department may be a good place to seek preliminary assistance. Private consultants are also available. The kinds of professionals that may help include persons who specialize in occupational health exposure, physicians, toxicologists and hydrogeologists.

If exposure is confirmed, legal assistance may also be necessary. Lawyers can help you secure the costs of protecting your family, including moving your family if needed.

If family members have been or are likely to become ill as a result of the exposure, a lawyer may be necessary to ensure that resources are available to pay for past and future expenses. This is something that needs to be promptly evaluated because statutes of limitations may terminate legal rights. And delay may result in loss of critical evidence.

In conclusion, benzene exposure should not be viewed as being solely a work place hazard. Under certain circumstances, people can become exposed to benzene within the confines of their own home.

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