Two days after marrying his wife Anita, Paul Manny landed a job at Uniroyal in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, as a tire analyst, testing tires under varying weights and speeds as part of his job description. Paul, as well as many other workers at the time, used gasoline as a degreaser to clean up at work.
Many aspects of Paul’s job concerned Anita.
“I worried about him,” she said.
When Paul was discovered to have an enlarged spleen, more tests were ordered. His diagnosis was polycythemia vera, a slow-forming blood cancer affecting the bone marrow.
“I didn’t know it would cause this,” Anita said. “He had to bathe in gasoline. Those tires would explode, and that hot rubber would come off and stick to him, and he had to clean the machines and clean himself, so he just scrubbed himself with gasoline. Then we found out that the gasoline they used at Uniroyal was low-grade and cheaper — that it had more benzene, more crap in it.”
Paul endured 28 years of constant sickness and pain before passing away at the age of 71.
After hearing that about 20 others who worked for Uniroyal had also developed cancer such as multiple myeloma and Fahr disease and were involved in a lawsuit against the company, Paul decided to join them, convinced it was the carcinogenic benzene in the gasoline that caused his disease.
Anita grew frustrated with the suit dragging on, saying “the oil companies will fight you until you drop dead from old age.”
The suit stretched out over the length of a decade, and in the end after Paul’s passing, Anita received around $30,000, which she said would do little to cover the $200,000 in medical bills.
The lawsuit raised awareness regarding the dangers of benzene exposure associated with the tire-building process. Many who work in close proximity to benzene are unaware of its dangers.
Exposure to products containing benzene has been linked to life-threatening diseases including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), lymphomas, blood cancers and disorders as well as aplastic Anemia.