More urine samples contaminated, some positive benzene readings

Another urine sample sent to another lab for benzene testing wound up compromised in shipment in the aftermath of the Deer Park ITC fire.             

This comes after a lawsuit was filed against LabCorp yesterday, alleging hundreds of urine samples sent for testing were compromised. 

One resident's results came back positive.

Justin Braly and his 15-year-old son are La Porte residents who both had rashes, burning eyes and throat, and a metallic taste in their moutsh in the days after the fire. 

They gave urine samples to test for benzene at Any Lab Test Now in Rosenberg. A week after the fire, they received bad news. 

"They called me and said that my son's sample had been destroyed," said Braly. 

The urine sample was shipped from Rosenberg to Expertox in Deer Park for testing. 

"The specimen had spilled, so it compromised its integrity," says lab director Dr. Ernest Lykissa. 

The spill happened while in shipment through Fedex, rendering the specimen useless for testing.  

The lab suggested Justin and his son give another sample, but time had passed since contracting the symptoms. 

"Taking another sample would not validly tell me if there was any benzene levels in his body. And that's my only child," said Braly. 

Justin thought he was alone until Wednesday.

"After seeing the news on Fox 26 last night how this happened to other people that were in the community, and I went through a complete separate entity to have the tests done, but yet they blamed Fedex for my sample being destroyed too, it really raised a lot of red flags."

Back in Deer Park, Jose Rivera took his 13-year-old daughter to the doctor because she had bad headaches after the fire. The doctor sent them to Quest Diagnostic for a urine sample. 

"I just got the results back, and they found some parts of benzene phenol in her urine system," Rivera said. "That shows that she was exposed."

Dr. Lykissa says the human body converts benzene and other voc's like xylene and naptha into phenol in the urine. 

"So she had .88 miligrams per liter," Dr. Lykissa says of Rivera's daughter. 

"Is .88 a lot or a little?" we asked. 

"Well it's very significant for a child," Dr. Lykissa said. 

"I feel worried about it for the future--how bad it's going to affect them. It's not good when you get that stuff in your system," Rivera says. 

Dr. Lykissa says his lab has received about 50 urine samples to be tested for benzene since the ITC fire. Of those, about half have come back positive for phenol, which suggests benzene exposure. 

He says Justin's son's sample is the only one that leaked in shipment. 

"You analyze a specimen that has been compromised and then they try to use it in court as evidence, it will not be acceptable as evidence because it was compromised, which means it could have been contaminated with other materials," he said. 

Justin asked that his son's leaked sample be tested anyway, it came back negative for benzene. 

He said he doesn't believe it. He's suing ITC for the symptoms he and his son suffered after the fire.