Sherry Roe was with her father for his chemotherapy treatment when she made the connection between her father’s terminal cancer and the company where he worked for 28 years.
“He’s sitting there talking to a guy on either side of him and they’re all cutting up. They’re all there getting chemo and they all had the same disease,” she told the Kokomo Tribune. “I said, ‘Dad, who are those men?’ He said, ‘This guy’s my foreman and this guy worked in the department with me.’ That’s when it hit me. Something big is going on.”
The men all worked at Delco Electronics in Kokomo, Indiana. In 2009, Roe’s father, Glenn Dukes, was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He died two months later. His death certificate listed AML and “history of benzene exposure,” as the cause of death.
Roe launched her own investigation into her father’s illness and discovered that benzene, a widely used chemical in industries that produce plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides, is a known carcinogen. The American Cancer Society lists benzene exposure as a risk factor for developing AML. She filed a lawsuit against companies that sold benzene products to Delco Electronics and, in 2017, settled with several companies on behalf of her father’s estate.
Now, she wants to help other Delco employees exposed to benzene in the workplace get their fair compensation. She held a town hall meeting where more than 50 factory workers from Delco Electronics and other industries attended. She says she hopes that ultimately they can file a class action lawsuit against the companies that supplied benzene to Delco Electronics and other companies.