Railroad Workers & Lung Cancer

Railroad workers are at a significantly increased risk for lung cancer.  Why is that? Because a great majority of America’s railroad workers were exposed to diesel exhaust, asbestos and silica dust throughout their work life.  All three of those toxins cause lung cancer.  In addition, many non-smoking railroad employees were exposed to secondhand smoke, another recognized lung carcinogen. Because many railroad workers suffer decades of exposures to known carcinogens, they are tragically diagnosed with lung cancer at elevated rates.

At Hughes Law Offices, one of our railroad cancer attorneys will take all these exposures into account when proving up your FELA lung cancer claim.  We will work with experienced industrial hygienists to ensure that no exposures are overlooked and our medical experts will match those exposures to the illness at hand.

A Primer on Diesel Exhaust and Lung Cancer

Since the post-World War II dieselization of the United States, it has been widely known that diesel exhaust contains carcinogens. Diesel exhaust contains arsenic, dioxin, benzene and chromium.  Those chemicals and metals are highly potent carcinogens.  So everyone (including the railroads) knew that diesel exhaust was full of carcinogens, but for some reason, it took until 2012 for The World Health Organization (“WHO) to declare diesel exhaust itself, a known carcinogen.  

Specifically, the WHO declared that diesel exhaust exposures cause lung cancer. For that reason, it is very difficult for railroads to deny that their employees’ lung cancer claims are unrelated to their workplace diesel exposures.

The Mechanics – Lung Cancer & Diesel Exhaust

Just how does diesel exhaust cause lung cancer?  Many of the most carcinogenic toxins found in diesel exhaust adhere to the soot.  Soot is comprised of very fine particles that are inhaled and deposited into the lungs.  While in the lungs these cancer-causing substances can damage and initiate mutations in lung cells which in turn lead to the development of cancer cells.

Types of Lung Cancer

Diesel exhaust lung cancer can be divided into two types: small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The appearance of the tumor cells determines what type of lung cancer is present. SCLC accounts for roughly 10-15 percent of lung cancers while NSCLC accounts for roughly 85 percent of lung cancers.  

The most common lung cancers associated with diesel exhaust exposures are adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Importance of Lung Cancer Screenings

If you worked for a railroad and were exposed to diesel exhaust, it is vital that you inform your doctor about your exposure history.  Doctors who are properly informed about risk factors for lung cancer – such as long term diesel, asbestos, secondhand smoke and silica exposures – may approve cancer screening procedures.  Screenings include chest x-rays or low-dose computed tomography (LDCT).  LDCT tests are basically CT scans with low radiation exposures.  Non-smokers with 40-year diesel exposures should fight for these lung cancer screenings.

Signs You Are Suffering

Lung cancer caught early is often treatable.  Unfortunately, in its early stages, lung cancer typically does not show any symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms may appear, including chronic hacking or coughing, repeated respiratory infections, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, hoarseness, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, severe headaches, fever, body pain or difficulty swallowing.

Many of the symptoms are a result of breathing passages that are blocked or due to cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

Contact a Railroad Cancer Lawyer

If you believe you are suffering from lung cancer due to on the job railroad exposures to toxins like diesel exhaust or asbestos, our team at Hughes Law Offices can fight on your behalf. Contact us today to get started.

Lung Cancer Verdicts & Settlements

$8,600,000 verdict – plaintiff worked as a railroad switchman for over 40 years. He was exposed to radiation, asbestos, and diesel fumes throughout his career, which contributed to his lung cancer diagnosis and eventual death. Though the plaintiff smoked for over 25 years, the damage caused by his smoking as opposed to his exposure to workplace toxins was impossible to draw a line between. Thus, the plaintiff was awarded $8.6 million. (Estate of Winston Payne, Deceased, and Ann Payne v. CSX Transportation)

$4,508,488 verdict – plaintiff was employed by Conrail in the signal maintenance department where he worked with railroad signals and signal houses. He often drilled into asbestos boards and was also exposed to silica and diesel fumes that contributed to his lung cancer diagnosis shortly after he retired. (Kevin E. Howell v. Consolidated Rail Corp.)

$3,452,500 verdict – plaintiff suffered exposure to asbestos throughout his 37-year employment. He was diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of his exposure, and eventually died. The railroad was found liable for the plaintiff’s cancer under FELA. (Estate of Paul McGowan v. Illinois Central Railroad Co.)

 $1,800,000 verdict – 49-year-old diesel mechanic was diagnosed with lung cancer after being exposed to floor coating products in his workplace. He died at age 54. At trial, the jury found the distributor of the floor products 27.5% liable and awarded the plaintiff’s estate $1,800,000. (Evans v. Select Products Co.)

$125,000 settlement – plaintiff was employed as a bench worker for 4 years where she was required to use a structural adhesive called “EA934” which contained asbestos. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and later passed away. At trial, her estate brought suit against the manufacturer or EA934, alleging that the adhesive was not fit for its intended purposes due to the asbestos it contained.

$37,000,000 verdict – two plaintiffs—a boilermaker and a steamfitter, both in their 20s— during their employment installed thermal insulation products that contained asbestos. Both men passed away from their illness. The estates of the men brought suit against the asbestos manufacturer and landowners alleging that the employees were exposed to asbestos found in the insulation at the power plants. At trial, it was found that occupational exposure to asbestos was the substantial factor in causing the cancer in both men. (Edward C. Martin and Bonita V. Martin v. A. C. and S. Inc. et al. / Robert J. Lettiere and Catherine E. Lettiere v. A. O. Smith Water Products, et al.)

Undisclosed settlement – Hughes Law Offices represented an on board services Amtrak employee who was a never smoker and yet was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.  Amtrak disclosed documents showing that it knowingly exposed on board personnel to cancer-causing secondhand smoke for more than a decade after domestic airlines banned smoking.  The reason?  Profits.  Amtrak chose to put their workforce at risk for cancer in exchange for obtaining fares from travelers who smoked.

Unless otherwise noted, the aforementioned cases were not handled directly by Hughes Law Offices. The case information is provided for illustrative purposes to educate sickened workers.

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