Diesel Injury Law

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Railroad Workers and AML

Due to their workplace exposures to toxins, railroad workers are at elevated risk for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).  Acute Myeloid Leukemia is an aggressive bone marrow cancer that can also be found in the blood. In this cancer, cells that should turn into white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets are mutated. Because of this mutation, the cells do not mature properly, and they are unable to fight off diseases. These immature cells duplicate quickly, causing the cancer.

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    AML is also known by many other names, including acute myelocytic leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia, and acute non-lymphocytic leukemia.

    We now know that exposures to certain substances and chemicals like benzene, radiation and certain chemotherapy medications can increase one’s risk of getting AML. Far too many railroad employees are diagnosed with AML as a result of their long-term exposures to benzene-containing fuels, solvents, paints and degreasers. Creosote exposures can also cause AML.

    AML, Diesel Exhaust/Benzene, and Railroad Workers

    Exposure to benzene is one of the most common risk factors associated with AML. Railroad worker AML diagnoses result from exposures to benzene.  Benzene is a component of petroleum products including diesel fuel and gasoline and is often used as a base material in products like plastics, degreasers, solvents, parts washers, lubricants, pesticides, rubbers, dyes, resins, and nylons.

    Furthermore, gasoline and diesel fuel can cause AML because of the benzene found in those fuels. Limited contact with diesel fuel might not prove harmful to one’s health, however chronic exposures to fuels and exhausts have been shown to increase the risk of cancers including AML. As a result of fuel fumes exposures, railroad hostlers and laborers involved in refueling locomotives are at increased risk for being diagnosed with AML.

    According to the Department of Medicine at Weill Medical College at the Methodist Hospital of Houston, AML has been proven to be caused by benzene. In fact, in certain cases, our experts can pinpoint genetic damage in AML patients that is consistent with past benzene exposures. These “biomarkers” go a long way in proving the relationship between the benzene exposure and the resulting AML. In settings like the railroad industry and manufacturing plants, benzene exposure is higher than usual. Because of this, industrial workers often have a higher risk of getting AML when compared to the general public.

    Other Railroad Exposures that can cause AML

    Creosote and coal tar are also proven triggers of AML in railroad workers.  Railroad track department employees experience regular creosote exposures.

    An oily mixture of the two solutions is known as carbolineum. Carbolineum is rot-resistant, so it is often used for preservation of wooden structures such as railroad ties and electric poles. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that coal tar creosote (carbolineum) is carcinogenic to humans. Our medical experts can tie extensive creosote exposures suffered by railroad trackman and maintenance of way employees to AML.

    According to a study conducted by the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, workers who are exposed to trichloroethylene on the job have a higher risk of getting AML. Trichloroethylene is a colorless organic chemical that is primarily used as a degreaser for metal equipment in industrial settings. Many railroad car department employees and machinists worked with trichloroethylene in the past few decades.

    Pesticides and herbicides are most often found in the farming industry and have been known to contribute to a multitude of disorders and illnesses in humans. Benzene is often used as a base in herbicides and pesticides, and therefore these chemicals can be associated with AML. Railroad workers exposed to herbicides in railroad yards and right of ways are at increased risk of developing AML.

    Formaldehyde is a strong-smelling gas used in manufacturing, as well as many household products. Chronic exposures to formaldehyde can be harmful. This high-level exposure occurs especially in the health care industry, funeral homes, and industrial settings that use resins, industrial disinfectants, and embalmers. Formaldehyde is a component of diesel exhaust as well.  Formaldehyde exposures increase the risk of getting AML.

    Importance of AML Screenings

    Symptoms of AML include unexplained and unintentional weight loss, fatigue, high fever, and night sweats. Easily bruising can also be considered a sign that AML is present.

    AML spreads quickly, and therefore early detection and treatment is crucial. In order to diagnose AML, doctors can use a variety of methods. Blood tests and bone marrow tests are most commonly used, as they look at the site of the cancer directly and can test for inconsistencies. Lumbar punctures and imaging tests can also be used to diagnose the cancer. Many hospitals will utilize cytogenetic testing during the diagnostic staging.

    Once it has been determined that a patient has AML, treatment methods will be chosen. Patients can treat their cancer through radiation, chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, or targeted therapy. Specific treatment will depend on whether it has spread to other parts of the body, as there is no “grading” system with AML that determines if some cases are more advanced than others.

    Contact Hughes Law Offices

    Railroad workers with AML due to diesel exhaust or other toxic workplace exposures should contact an attorney at Hughes Law Offices. AML cases are often brought against the manufacturers of the products that caused the disease. In the case of railroad employees, we typically target the railroad employer under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Establishing medical causation (that the toxins caused the AML) and determining the appropriate legal claims can be complicated. Contact an experienced railroad AML attorney today to get started.

    Illustrative Railroad Worker AML Verdicts

    $7,500,000 verdict – 51-year-old maintenance-of-way employee of Union Pacific Railroad Co. was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Plaintiff worked for the railroad for 28 years, where he was exposed on a daily basis to benzene-heavy chemicals including creosote, coal tar distillates, carbolineum, naphtha, and various cleaning solvents.

    Confidential Settlement  — Hughes Law Offices and its partner counsel obtained a settlement for a trackman who worked for a Class I railroad and was diagnosed with AML. Documents produced in the case showed significant amounts of benzene in the creosote utilized by the railroad.

    Hughes Law Offices is providing case histories to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns and rulings in your area. Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices.

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