Railroads recognized the dangers of toxins such as asbestos, diesel exhaust, silica sand and second-hand smoke decades ago. And yet, it is clear that these mega-rich railroads prioritized profits over the safety of their employees. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, railroad locomotive engineers, conductors, machinists and carmen were exposed to toxic levels of asbestos, diesel exhaust, second-hand smoke and silica sand. All four of those toxins are proven to cause lung cancer and yet the railroads provided little or no warnings to their workers. Unfortunately, many of today’s railroad workers are still being exposed to carcinogens in the workplace while railroad retirees are diagnosed with cancers at alarming rates.
In honor of Healthy Lung Month, keep the following in mind.
Asbestos Exposures, Railroad Workers & Cancer
Asbestos is a heat-resistant silicate mineral that was historically found in a wide variety of locations including insulation fabrics, gaskets and brake linings. Asbestos fibers are soft and flexible and resistant to heat, corrosion and electricity. Asbestos was hailed as a miracle product with utility in many forms. In the railroad industry, asbestos was found in composite brake shoes, in insulation used to wrap heating pipes on locomotives, in walls, ceilings and floors of locomotives and cabooses and throughout many of the old shops and roundhouses. Asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma and asbestosis along with cancers of the lung, larynx, stomach, colon, and rectum. railroad employees who endured these exposures and have received a diagnosis attributable to asbestos should bring claims pursuant to the Federal Employers Liability Act.
Smokestacks on Rails
Railroad locomotives are extraordinarily powerful machines that burn extreme amounts of diesel fuel in order to pull trains weighing thousands of tons. Some over-the-road freight trains, weighing as much as 18,000 tons, are powered by five or six 4000 horsepower locomotives. A single train can burn thousands of gallons of diesel fuel. And over the course of a year, a Class 1 railroad burns millions of gallons of diesel fuel. In 2018, Canadian National Railway burned 462.7 million gallons of diesel fuel in its freight operations. Locomotives are essentially smokestacks on rails and the men and women who operate those smokestacks are presently enduring cancer-causing exposures to diesel exhaust.
Diesel Exposures, Railroad Workers & Cancer
Locomotive engineers and brakemen are exposed to diesel exhaust when idling with their windows open, when poor seals in floors, walls and windows allow exhaust to enter the cab from the engine compartment and when operating through tunnels (to name a few examples). Shop employees are exposed to diesel exhaust when cold locomotives are started inside poorly ventilated shops. Diesel exhaust and its numerous constituents (e.g. PAH’s, benzene, arsenic, cadmium and chromium) cause lung cancer, bladder cancer, renal cell carcinoma/kidney cancer, colorectal cancer, laryngeal cancer and has been tied to certain leukemias and Multiple Myeloma.
Historically, railroad employees were exposed to other lung cancer-causing toxins such as silica sand, ballast dust, and second-hand tobacco smoke. It is vitally important that railroad workers and retirees inform their doctors of these chronic exposures and request appropriate medical screenings. An informed doctor may be able to make a more timely diagnosis. And cancers caught early, are often quite treatable.
Contact Us Today
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with railroad-related cancer, call 312-877-5588 and speak to one of our attorneys today. Let us fight the railroad so you can focus on your treatment and recovery.