Benzene and butadiene are tied to an increased risk of CLL as well as other leukemias and cancers. Both of these chemicals are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a group one carcinogens. Examples of other group one carcinogens include asbestos, plutonium, and tobacco. Railroad workers are exposed to benzene and butadiene simultaneously by way of diesel exhaust. It is beyond dispute that day in and day out, railroad workers endure some of the worst diesel exposures of any occupation. Benzene and butadiene are just two of the many carcinogens that can be found in diesel exhaust. In addition to CLL, diesel exhaust exposure has been tied to a variety of other cancers such as lung cancer.
Unfortunately, railroad workers are exposed to benzene in more ways than one. For example, benzene was historically found in many of the solvents, degreasers, thinners, parts cleaners, mineral spirits, lubricants, fuels, and paints that were relied upon by railroad shop workers. Some common products that once contained benzene include Liquid Wrench, Gumout, Champion Brake Cleaner, Ortho Weed-B-Gone and SafetyKleen.
What is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?
Of the four main types of leukemia, CLL is the most common type in adults. Leukemia refers to cancers that originate in blood-forming tissue such as bone marrow and the lymphatic system. When leukemia develops in blood-forming tissue, it begins to produce abnormal blood cells.
So what is “lymphocytic” leukemia? Leukemias are classified by the type of blood cell that they affect. There are three main types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. CLL is a “lymphocytic” leukemia because it affects lymphocytes – a group of white blood cells that help your body fight infections. Because leukemia affects lymphocytes, some doctors also consider CLL to be a sub-type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Why is CLL “chronic?” Leukemias are also classified by the rate at which they progress. CLL is a “chronic” leukemia because it develops at a slower rate compared to other leukemias such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Because chronic leukemias typically grow slowly, it may take a long time before a patient needs treatment. However, this is not always the case. There are two types of CLL: Ig-mutated CLL and Ig-unmutated CLL. Lg-unmutated CLL grows much faster and it is considered a more serious disease.