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Benzene Spike Near Houston Chemical Plant Fire Causes Me Concern About Future Leukemia Cases

Having survived a battle with Leukemia, I am concerned by the latest report in the Houston Chronicle that a spike in benzene levels has been detected near the Deer Park site of the ITC chemical plant fire.

Benzene is a major cause of leukemia which is a cancer of the bone marrow. Leukemia is a vicious disease that claims the lives of a majority of its victims.

Information about the links between benzene and leukemia as well as the “latency period” or delay between exposure and disease can be found at our web page: Did Benzene Cause Your Leukemia.

The treatment for leukemia can include chemotherapy and, in many cases, a stem cell transplant. Leukemia is a vicious disease and the treatment for it is often brutal. For an overview of the chemotherapy and stem cell transplant used by MD Anderson Cancer Center to fight my leukemia, you can read my treatment blog at https://leukemialottery.wordpress.com/.

My advice to friends and former clients who are concerned that they have been exposed to increased benzene levels because of the smoke plume from the fire is simple: get an annual physical exam. My annual physical saved my life. My family physician noticed a decrease in my white blood cell count when he reviewed my annual CBC (Complete Blood Count) labs. Had I waited one more week to get my CBC results, I wouldn’t be alive today. If you feel unusually tired or notice other symptoms of leukemia in between annual exams, get a CBC. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind. As part of my ongoing monitoring for relapse, I undergo monthly CBC tests and I get a bone marrow biopsy every 6 months.

I hope none of the residents of Houston get leukemia from this event. However, given the strong links between leukemia and benzene exposure, I am concerned for my friends in the Houston area.