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VICTIMS OF DIESEL EXPOSURES

Herbicide Use in the Railroad Industry

Published on June 16th, 2021 by Andrew L. Hughes

For decades, railroads have used herbicides on mainline tracks, at rail crossings, and inside their rail yards to control vegetation. Many railroad workers, in turn, have endured long-term exposures to those herbicides while working on the ground as brakeman, conductors, car men, and members of the track department. As a result of these railroad herbicide exposures, workers are at increased risk for Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and a variety of cancers, including lung cancer, bladder cancer, and laryngeal cancer.

Railroad Herbicide Exposure Today

Typically, the average person may be exposed to herbicides in small amounts by eating food that contains herbicide residue. Herbicides also find their way into our waterways via runoff from cultivated land. In the railroad industry, exposure occurs for those applying herbicides, those working on sites where the herbicide was used, and those in surrounding areas.

  • Common herbicides used today include 2,4-D, brand names of glyphosate-containing products such as Roundup, MSM 60, Bayer Landmark XP, Triclopyr 3, and many others.

In years past, an unlucky crew would be assigned to work the herbicide “spray train.” The locomotive engineers, brakemen, conductors working the spray train had terrible herbicide exposures. These days, railroads typically employ third-party contractors to apply herbicides. And railroads apparently don’t always hire the most responsible herbicide contractors. Companies hired by railroads to spray herbicides have been found in violation of environmental regulations and faced fines and lawsuits over their herbicide spraying methods and activities. For instance, in 2007, NaturChem, who was contracted by Norfolk Southern Railway, sprayed herbicides onto toddlers playing at a childcare center bordering the railroad’s property. In 2004 alone, NaturChem had 809 violations by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

railroad trackman cancer

Railroad Worker Exposures to 2,4-D

2,4,-D, also sometimes called amine, has been used since 1945 and today is the most common herbicide used in the home and garden sector in the United States. This chemical is included in over 600 products and is still used by railroads.

There have been carcinogenicity concerns of 2,4-D since 1986 and IARC has classified 2,4-D as possibly carcinogenic with evidence pointing to an association with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 2,4-D is associated with other negative health consequences as well, such as liver and kidney-related illnesses. The EPA has also stated there is concern that 2,4-D may cause neurological disorders.

Another issue with 2,4-D is the possibility of contamination from dangerous chemicals during processing and production. In the 1990s, the EPA found that about 25% of 2,4-D contained the carcinogen dioxin (2,3,7-D TCDD). Later, studies established that the use of 2,4-D was the 7th most common source of dioxin emissions in the United States. Dioxin is a known carcinogen associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the lung and larynx.

Railroad Worker Exposures to Glyphosate

Glyphosate was registered in the U.S. in 1974 and has been one of the most commonly used herbicides since. Glyphosate exists in more than 750 products. It is post-emergent, non-selective, and effective on many types of vegetation. Trade names for glyphosate include Roundup, Ground-Up, Touchdown, Tragli, and Wipe Out.

Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide in industrial and commercial uses, including railroads. Since the 1970s, the volume of glyphosate used has increased 100-fold. This is due to the emergence of glyphosate-resistant crops that require more herbicide in order to be effective. The World Health Organization and IARC have both classified glyphosate-based herbicides as possible carcinogens.

Railroad Worker Exposures to Diuron

Diuron was first registered in 1967. In 1989, diuron was given regulatory limits by OSHA and in 1996 was classified as a known/likely carcinogen. Diuron contains TCAB (3,3’,4,4’-Tetrachlotoazobenzene), which is classified as probably carcinogenic by IARC.

Trade names of diuron include Direx and Karmex Crisuron, Diater, and Unidron. Over half of all diuron used today is in the railroad industry.

Railroad Worker Herbicide Illnesses

The use of herbicides has been associated with various cancers such as kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They are also associated with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Agent Orange was a well-known herbicide used during the Vietnam War. The U.S. Government has a list of presumptive conditions that can be tied to Agent Orange exposures, which include bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, multiple myeloma, lung cancer, and laryngeal cancer.

At Hughes Law Offices, we take a global approach to evaluating your exposures to railroad toxins. We start with a very thorough intake performed by a railroad cancer lawyer. We then consult with our team of experts to determine which railroad exposures contributed to our client’s cancer or leukemia. Herbicide exposures often play a part in contributing to our clients’ illnesses. If you or a loved one worked for the railroad and have received a diagnosis that you suspect could have been caused by railroad exposures, call Hughes Law Offices at 312-877-5588.

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