A Madison County man claims he developed leukemia after more than 30 years of exposure to benzene.

Jerry and Diane Crawford filed a lawsuit Sept. 13 in Madison County Circuit Court against Shell Chemical Co., Shell Oil Co., Turtle Wax and United States Steel Corp.

The Crawfords claim that throughout Jerry Crawford's employment at Shell Wood River Refinery in Wood River from 1967 until 2000, he unintentionally inhaled volatile organic compounds -- chemicals found in cleaners, solvents and solvent-based fluids.

In December 2008, Jerry Crawford discovered that he had developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia because of his exposure to the VOCs, according to the complaint.

As a result of his disease, Jerry Crawford sustained disability and disfigurement, incurred substantial medical costs and experienced great physical pain and mental anguish, the suit states.

Co-plaintiff Diane Crawford claims she lost her husband's support, devotion, care, society and consortium because of his disease.

The Crawfords blame the defendants for causing Jerry Crawford's disease, saying the companies negligently included VOCs in their products when they knew that workers would inhale the dangerous materials. In addition, the defending companies included the VOCs in their products when alternative and safer materials were available, failed to warn people working around the VOCs of their dangers, failed to provide adequate instructions on how to safely work around the VOCs and failed to conduct tests on the VOCs, the suit states.

In their nine-count complaint, the Crawfords are seeking compensatory damages of more than $450,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

Timothy F. Thompson Jr. and Ryan J. Kiwala of Simmons, Browder, Gianaris, Angelides and Barnerd in East Alton will be representing them.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-945.

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