Kelly Holleran May 10, 2013, 9:10am

A Bethalto woman claims she developed cancer after being exposed to benzene while living near a Shell Oil plant.

Trudy Lehnen filed a lawsuit May 1 in Madison County Circuit Court against Shell Oil Company and BP Products North America.

In her complaint, Lehnen claims she lived at 532 Seventh St. in Wood River from 1951 until 1974.

Near Lehnen’s home lies the Wood River Refinery. At the refinery, Shell processed and stored benzene, a highly toxic chemical classified as a human carcinogen, according to the complaint.

The chemical transferred from the facilities to the ground water and soil, where Lehnen came into contact with it, the suit states.

Because of her exposure, Lehnen developed multiple myeloma, the complaint says.

Lehnen claims her disease has caused her to incur medical costs, to experience pain and suffering and to endure mental anguish. She also suffers from a shortened life expectancy, has missed work, has been unable to obtain employment and has experienced a permanently damaged ability to make a living, according to the complaint.

Lehnen alleges negligence against the defendants, saying they included benzene in their products even though they knew of the dangers of the benzene, included benzene in their products when adequate substitutes were available, failed to sufficiently test the health effects of benzene and failed to maintain records on residents living near the Wood River facilities, among other negligent acts.

She also accuses the defendants of willful and wanton conduct, conspiracy and cover up.

In her 15-count suit, Lehnen seeks a judgment of more than $100,000 and compensatory damages of more than $50,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

Christopher W. Dysart of The Dysart Law Firm in St. Louis will be representing her.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 13-L-679.

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