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New Study Monitoring post-Harvey Benzene Exposure

Special Bracelets Track Benzene Exposure in Houston Residents

Houston residents rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey’s destruction will help scientists tracking benzene exposure, according to a Houston Business Journal report.

Baylor College of Medicine is funding a study in which flood victims will wear porous silicone wristbands that absorb organic chemicals as they re-enter their flood-damaged homes. The college is working with researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Texas A&M University and Oregon State University.

The wristbands detect volatile and semi-volatile chemicals directly from air and water. Study participants will take the bracelets off seven days after returning home and mail them to Oregon State, where the technology was developed.

The Houston Chronicle reported about 150 people signed up to wear the bracelets, which look like the silicone bracelets given away in advertising campaigns or as marketing collateral. These bracelets, however, can absorb more than 1,500 organic chemicals in a process closely mimicking the human cell.

Cheryl Lyn Walker, director for Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Precision Environmental Health, told the Chronicle each participant was asked to provide health information and biological samples before starting the study. She said researchers will track any health changes among participants over the next six to 12 months.

Oregon State environmental chemist Kim Anderson told the Chronicle benzene is among the toxins tracked by the bracelets.

Benzene exposure has repeatedly been proven to cause cancer in humans. Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon compound used in the manufacture of plastics, resins and dyes and many other products. Numerous scientific studies detail benzene’s various adverse health effects, including causing acute myeloid leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Refineries and petrochemical plants across the Houston and greater southwest Texas region released millions of pounds of pollutants before and after Hurricane Harvey struck, including benzene.

The city of Houston, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New York-based advocacy group the Environmental Defense Fund are investigating a benzene “plume” detected in a neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey damaged a nearby refinery.

The Wall Street Journal reports two monitors detected different benzene levels at different times. Loren Raun, chief environmental science officer for the Houston Health Department and Elena Craft, senior health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, say additional monitoring is needed to determine the health risks behind the benzene plume’s release.

The EPA said they are deploying an air monitor in the area on Sept. 5, 2017 to help the agencies pinpoint the source of the benzene link, and determine how far the leak spread.

“EPA continues to conduct ambient air monitoring in Houston and is focusing on an area of potential concern associated with reported air emissions from a Valero facility in Houston,” said EPA spokesman David Gray.

The 14th Report of Carcinogens published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program states benzene is known to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient carcinogenicity evidence.

Numerous other studies link benzene exposure to cancer. If you believe your recent cancer diagnosis might be related to your occupational or environmental exposure to chemicals, please contact the trial attorneys of Allen Stewart, P.C. The firm has decades of combined experience in helping those who have developed cancer due to toxic exposure.

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