Railroad Pesticides

Many railroad workers are at elevated risk for cancer and Parkinson’s disease as a result of being occupationally exposed to pesticides.

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    Why are Railroad Workers Exposed to Pesticides?

    The railroads use pesticides to control vegetation on mainline tracks, at rail crossings, and inside their rail yards. The railroads are well aware that using these chemicals risks the health of their employees. However, using pesticides is cheaper than alternative forms of pest and weed control. Pesticides fill the air and cover the dust that is inhaled by brakemenconductorslocomotive engineerscar department employees, and members of the maintenance of way department.

    How Dangerous is Pesticide Exposure?

    Pesticide exposure is extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, using the most potent (i.e. poisonous) pesticides available is generally the most cost efficient option for the railroads. If the railroads used safer pesticides, they would either need to spray more often or they would need to supplement the pesticides with alternative methods of weed control. This translates into additional cost for the railroads.

    Consequently, the pesticides that railroad workers are exposed to tend to be extremely lethal. Even a small sip of some common railroad pesticides would be enough to kill an adult. Chronic exposures at much lower doses can cause permanent organ damage and lead to the development of long-term and potentially fatal illnesses.

    Do Pesticides Cause Cancer?

    Yes. Many of the pesticides that have been widely used by the railroads are known to cause cancer or are strongly associated with cancer. This includes pesticides such as MSMA, 2,4-Dglyphosatediuron, and Agent Orange.


    Which Cancers are Caused by Pesticide Exposure?

    Different pesticides are linked with different cancers. If you or a loved one has been exposed to pesticides and has been diagnosed with one of the following cancers, you may be entitled to compensation.

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    Does Pesticide Exposure Cause Parkinson’s Disease?

    Yes. Exposure to certain pesticides, such as Paraquat, has been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease. Paraquat has become much more popular in recent decades as vegetation has developed immunity to other pesticides such as glyphosate. Paraquat, however, is not the only railroad pesticide that is linked to Parkinson’s disease. In recent years the hugely popular pesticide 2,4-D has also been linked to Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, the railroads also previously used Agent Orange which is linked to Parkinson’s disease and many other illnesses. In fact, an article written by an Union Pacific employee indicates that Agent Orange was being used by the railroads as recently as 1975. [1]

    How are Railroad Workers Exposed to Pesticides?

    A dangerous exposure to pesticides can occur by inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the skin. Such exposures are typically the most severe when the pesticides are being applied or shortly thereafter. In past years, 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, most railroads typically employ third-party contractors to apply herbicides. The railroad workers made to accompany the herbicide contractors tend to endure intense exposures. And railroads apparently don’t always hire the most responsible herbicide contractors. However, the risk to railroad workers doesn’t end after the spraying is completed. The pesticides do not go away; they coat the earth that is surrounding the railroad tracks. Because there is no vegetation to absorb the pesticides or compact the earth, pesticide covered dust is endlessly kicked up into the air that is breathed by railroad workers.


    Are Railroad Workers Still Being Exposed to Dangerous Pesticides?

    Yes, even today, railroad workers are still being exposed to pesticides that cause cancer and Parkinson’s disease. As of 2023, dangerous pesticides such as glyphosate and paraquat are legal for use in the United States despite being widely banned in other industrialized countries. Railroad workers will likely continue to be exposed to these toxic chemicals so long as it is legal and cost efficient for the railroads to use them.

    What can I do if I was Exposed to Pesticides?

    If you or a loved one was exposed to pesticides while working for a railroad and have been diagnosed with a related disease, the attorneys at Hughes Law Offices may be able to help. These are complicated cases that require experienced attorneys. While you and your loved ones focus on recovery, let us do the work needed to prove your case. Contact Hughes Law Offices today at 312-877-5588 for a free attorney consultation.

    Pesticide Exposure Verdicts & Settlements

    Aggregate Settlement (New Jersey, 2014)


    A 60-year-old railroad trackman was diagnosed with gastric cancer after a 28-year career working for New Jersey Transit and Conrail. He passed away 2 years after his diagnosis. During his employment, he was regularly exposed to pesticides, diesel exhaust, creosote, and calcium chlorides while performing his...

    Settlement (New Jersey, 2014)


    A 38-year-old railroad trackman was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after 19 years of employment with New Jersey Transit. During that time, he had been exposed to various carcinogens such as pesticides, diesel exhaust, and creosote. The parties eventually agreed to settle. At that time,...

    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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    Verdicts and Settlements

    Survey of Railroad Cancer Claims

    Hughes Law Offices is providing case histories to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns and rulings.
    Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices.
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    Railroad carman died of pulmonary fibrosis following 18 years of welding.



    Locomotive engineer in his early 60’s developed diesel asthma.



    Railroad mechanic diagnosed with squamous cell oropharyngeal cancer.



    Trainman died of nasopharyngeal cancer as a result of working on-board locomotives filled with diesel exhaust.



    Retired railroad employee died of lung cancer as a result of workplace asbestos exposure.



    61 year old railroad conductor diagnosed with interstitial fibrosis and an increased risk of lung cancer as a result of exposure to diesel exhaust.

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