More than 9,000 residents are pushing a class action lawsuit against Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) asking for up to $2.5 billion in damages over a massive gas leak that released cancer-causing benzene into the environment when 100,000 metric tons of methane spewed out of a pressurized gas field in the Aliso Canyon three years ago. Many residents said they became ill after the gas leak. Some were forced out of their homes.
At issue is how much benzene was released during the gas leak. A SoCalGas engineer claims it was only trace amounts. The company also contends that there “is no long-term risk to public health or safety from the gas leak.” But environmental experts disagree.
Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid that has become one of the most widely used chemicals in the U.S., used mainly as an agent in the manufacturing of other chemicals, like plastics, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, and solvents. It is also used as a gasoline additive.
The use of benzene has been reduced in recent years because the chemical was found to cause blood cancer, particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Some studies linked benzene exposure to childhood leukemia, especially AML, as well as acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and other blood-type cancers including multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in adults.
SoCalGas says for several months after the gas leak, it collected and submitted air, soil and dust samples to several public health agencies for testing. Results showed that the benzene emissions in the gas leak area were “similar to background levels generally found in the Los Angeles area.”
But residents in the area say that doesn’t put their minds at ease. Especially since scientists and environmental regulatory agencies agree that there is no safe amount of benzene. Even trace amounts of benzene exposure over the course of several years can lead to cancer and birth defects.
Source: Daily News