A man claims he developed leukemia after being exposed to benzene while growing up near a Shell Oil plant.

Andrew Kayser filed a lawsuit Sept. 9 in Madison County Circuit Court against Shell Oil Company, BP Products North America, ConocoPhillips Company, WRB Refining and URS Corporation.

In his complaint, Kayser claims he grew up in a home at 150 East Fifth St. in Roxana where he lived until 1997. From there, he moved to 129 East First St. in Roxana and resided there through 2005. He also attended school in the Wood River community, close to Wood River facilities owned by Shell and BP.

At the facilities, Shell and BP processed and stored benzene, a highly toxic chemical classified as a human carcinogen, according to the complaint.

The same benzene produced at the facilities discharged into the surrounding air and water, causing Kayser to be exposed to the pollutant, the suit states.

Because of his exposure, Kayser developed acute lymphocyticleukemia, with which he was diagnosed in March 2003, the complaint says.

Kayser claims his disease has caused him to undergo bilateral knee replacement and premature aging of his skeletal system and to sustain damages to his teeth. In addition, he has had to undergo back surgeries, to have his spleen removed, to pay medical costs, to face a shortened life expectancy, to sustain mental anguish and to experience pain and suffering, according to the complaint.

Kayser alleges negligence against the defendants, saying they included benzene in their products even though it was a known carcinogen, failed to sufficiently test the effects of benzene on humans living in close proximity to plants and failed to alert him and other residents of air and water contamination.

Kayser also alleges willful and wanton conduct against the defendants, saying they released toxic chemicals into the air without attempting to clean them up, minimized and hid the dangers of benzene exposure despite their knowledge of the chemicals and committed numerous environmental violations.

In his two-count suit, Kayser seeks a judgment of more than $100,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

Christopher W. Dysart of The Dysart Law Firm in Chesterfield and Kimberly M. Steuterman and Phillip Graham of Helfrey, Neiers and Jones in St. Louis will be representing him.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-901.

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